No one doubts that digital data holds great value. \u201cLike they say, data is the new oil,\u201d says Will Lassalle (@wlassalle), Chief Information Officer at JLS Technology USA. Few would disagree with this assessment.\nAs critical resources go, however, data differs from oil in a number of important ways. For starters, unlike oil, digital data is far from a limited resource. Indeed, it is expanding at an exponential rate, as significant percentages of the world\u2019s activities \u2013 both business and consumer \u2013 take place within the digital realm.\nAnother key difference: as more oil enters the market, its value plunges. The reverse is true for data. The more data companies collect, analyze, and leverage, the more value it can deliver.\nThat said, \u201cvalue\u201d can be a vague concept, with meanings and measurements that vary considerably among different organizations. Chief Technology Officer Brian E. Thomas (@DivergentCIO), asks, for example, \u201cIs the data valuable because it needs to be secured (via regulations such as HIPAA and PCI), or is it the highly rich consumer data that companies are striving to make business shifts based on purchasing trends?\u201d\n"Before you can determine value,\u201d he adds, \u201cyou need to have structured and mature data governance and data analytics programs. That way there is a collaborative process for classifying and using that data based on its criteria.\u201d\nSome observers recommend taking an even broader perspective before attempting to assess the value of their data. \u201cThe most valuable data is the \u2018right\u2019 data,\u201d says Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Consulting at GeekHive. \u201cBut you can't get to \u2018right\u2019 unless you've taken the time to define a unified business, technical, and data roadmap.\n\u201cWhat problems are you trying to solve?,\u201d he continues. \u201cWhat are your desired outcomes? Answering questions like these will help you define the roadmap, surface the \u2018right\u2019 data, and establish value.\u201d\n\u201cOne major challenge is that it is not always clear what data will be critical to solving your problem,\u201d says Joe DosSantos (@JoeDosSantos), Chief Data Officer at Qlik.\u00a0 \u201cThe world is awash with data that is of varying level of value based on the problem you are trying to solve.\u00a0 The most advanced analytics organizations will create ways to rapidly catalog and access new data that might be important, iterate quickly, and fail fast if necessary.\u00a0 The result will be an accelerated path to separating out the data wheat from the data chaffe.\u201d\nQualifying and Quantifying Data\u2019s Value\nOnce an organization has answers to these types of strategic questions, it can move on to tackle the challenges posed by \u201cthe famous Vs\u201d \u2013 data volume, variety, and velocity \u2013 says Linda Grasso (@LindaGrass0), Chief Operations Officer at Digital Business Innovation Srl. However, she says, unlike these other Vs, value doesn\u2019t have to be a quantitative measure.\n\u201cValue can be determined in a qualitative way,\u201d says Grasso. This can be done via \u201ca deep analysis of what are the key data the enterprise should harness in order to get a profitable return, [and that depends] on the business model of each organization.\u201d\nThat\u2019s not to say there aren\u2019t incentives, and means, to quantify the value of digital data. \u201cI use a structured approach [by] aggregating a few components of our data\u2019s\u2019 value \u2013 \u00a0intrinsic, derivative, and algorithmic,\u201d says Lassalle at JLS Technology USA. \u201cI use this approach to assess the true value, placing a real dollar amount on what data is worth to help organizations manage the risk around data as their most important asset.\u201d\nQualitative or quantitative, the value of data isn\u2019t static. As data ages, for example, its value can wane. Conversely, real-time data is often extremely valuable, as is data supplemented with complementary data from other sources.\nMost people tend to focus on, and put value on, the data that emerges from their own operations or other familiar sources, notes Mark Thiele (@mthiele10), CEO at Edgevana. \u201cThe opportunity for gaining value from data grows considerable when it is combined with data outside the direct sphere of influence of any of the contributing individuals or groups,\u201d he says.\nA Spectrum of Use Cases\nAt a fundamental level, \u201cEvery company has to evaluate data with an eye to how it\u2019s interpreted and how it could drive positive change across the enterprise,\u201d says Technology Journalist Jeff Cutler (@JeffCutler). But he believes that one category of data is especially valuable. \u201cI would propose that data pertinent to operational efficiency be rated most important to any business,\u201d Cutler says.\nTony Flath (@TmanSpeaks), Enterprise Account Executive at Shaw Communications, agrees that high-value data use cases can include operational activities such as reducing unplanned downtime and reducting inventory cost. He also notes that other use cases, including improving customer retention and boosting product cross-sell, are more customer focused. Ultimately, he says, \u201cwe map or attribute the financial value of the operational and business use cases back to the supporting data sources.\u201d\nFor Larry Larmeu (@LarryLarmeu), Enterprise Strategist at Accenture, using data to optimize operational processes has value, but with limitations. \u201cThere\u2019s only so much juice you can squeeze out of an orange,\u201d he cautions.\nBy comparison, \u201cConsumer behavior data is considered extremely valuable because it gives insight into what people want,\u201d he says. That insight, in turn, \u201callows you to target products and services to their needs, promoting top-line growth.\u201d\nAs they seek to better understand the behaviors and wants of their customers, companies are trying to maximize the value of data by tapping machine learning and other artificial intelligence technologies, notes Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. Companies such as Amazon are able to leverage these technologies on a massive scale, he says.\nAmazon can \u201cefficiently collect data on a billion customers' behaviors and utilize machine learning to better predict what their customer would likely want to watch or buy next,\u201d Schober says. \u201cAs more people fulfill this predictive model, the algorithm becomes smarter.\u201d\nData\u2019s Value Poses Risks\nIn today\u2019s digitally dependent world, of course, there is a downside to the growing value of data: cyber threats. In addition to calculating how they can leverage data for their benefit, organizations must also assess and mitigate the risks associated with unauthorized data access, corruption, loss, or exposure.\n\u201cFor some organizations, regulatory and legal risks associated with storing data will be at the top of the [risk] rankings,\u201d says Kayne McGladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), Chief Information Security Officer at Pensar Development. \u201cFor others, the reputational damages associated with a data breach will claim the top spot.\u201d\nFrom a security perspective, the most valuable data is that that constitutes the \u201ccrown jewels of an organization,\u201d says Matthew Hackling (@mhackling), Director at Ronin Security Consulting Pty Ltd.\nTo identify and secure these data jewels, \u201cThe first step is to walk through the organisation\u2019s value chain of key business processes and identify the datasets required to support those processes,\u201d Hackling says. \u201cThen you find out in which crown jewel applications these datasets reside, where they are hosted, and by whom.\u201d\nArguably, the highest value data is that which is both central to a company\u2019s success and is also a prime target for cyber attacks. A good example of such \u201cdual value\u201d data is Coca-Cola\u2019s \u201csecret formula.\u201d\n\u201cThe formula for Coke allows them to sell a product with terrific sales and margins,\u201d says Wayne Sadin (@waynesadin), a board governance fellow at the National Association of Corporate Directors. At the same time, notes Hackling, the formula is a data crown jewel that demands the highest level of security protection.\nAt the end of the day, there is no single way to assess which data is the most valuable to any given organization \u2013 or to outsiders. For companies at a loss to make such assessments, Sadin suggests a simple rule: \u201cFind out what data your board of directors uses to make its decisions,\u201d he says. \u201cYou can bet that data is valuable to your organization!\u201d\nTo find out how Qlik can help you identify, analyze, and leverage the data of most value to your organization, visit.