Data as a Journey, not a Destination


  • Didem Gurdur Broo University of Cambridge


High quality, trustworthy data can help organisations build strategies, capture value, increase the potential of automation and enable insightful and fast decision-making. Data could change the cities we inhabit through real-time solutions to challenges such as traffic congestion, air quality, energy distribution and monitoring. Only the collection, curation and whole-life accessibility of high-quality data can help us to optimise the performance and maintenance of our existing infrastructure, including roads, railways, bridges, buildings and undergrounds. This could make a big difference in a country where we add only 0.5 per cent annually to the capital values of our inherited assets.
Vitally, by enabling us to use our infrastructure efficiently and for longer, a sustainable, carbon-free world is within reach. However, despite this potential, research shows that as few as 10 per cent of companies are attempting to put data and artificial intelligence to work across their businesses. Some industries such as telecommunications, automotive and financial services are doing relatively well catching up with the level of maturity seen in information and communication technologies, while others such as health care, education, government, and construction are still not close to realising the full potential of data.
Adopting data-oriented approaches is a destination, yet one cannot reach that point without taking the journey. This journey requires companies to curate, collect, assess, operationalise, analyse, visualise and algorithmise data. The process can be long, and new skill sets and perspectives are necessary – as well as investment – for a successful application. However, the opportunities are as limitless as the change is inevitable.
Data is often referred to as “the new oil”. I always found this metaphor at once exciting and scary. Today we are, on one hand, grateful for the changes that oil fuelled. Yet on the other hand, one of the world’s biggest struggles today is waste from this revolution. Now that we are at the beginning of a new era, which many call the fourth industrial revolution, it is vital to understand how data-related decisions of today can affect the future and minimise waste from the start. Therefore, it is essential to acquire the fundamentals of data, know how it will be useful for our industry and learn the lessons of other industries to avoid repeating their mistakes.
To this end, our strategy should be not only collecting data but collecting the right amount of data for the right purpose, instead of collecting data without a well-defined objective. This requires companies to ask important questions, put initial data management plans in action and continuously check the quality of the data. To enable sustainable, optimised decisions we need not only our data but also data from others. Thus, discussions on how to integrate and share data are more important than ever. If the traditional companies which could benefit most from data and artificial intelligence want to be able to compete, profit and help to build a sustainable world, the decision makers must start embracing data, hire the right people and put in place the required policies to gather the correct data, make it accessible and assess its quality. Only in this way will our industry be in a position to truly take advantage of the next industrial revolution.



How to Cite

Gurdur Broo D. Data as a Journey, not a Destination. MODPROD [Internet]. 2021 Feb. 16 [cited 2021 Nov. 29];26(15):8. Available from: