Businesses of all sizes continue to struggle to find a solution for dealing with the growing volume of information flowing into their databases-a mountain of files and figures known as big data. Although that load of information can make businesses smarter, open data will be far more consequential for increasing revenue and business value, analysts at Gartner maintain. Open data, according to the research firm, refers to the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other forms of control.
"Big data is a topic of growing interest for many business and IT leaders, and there is little doubt that it creates business value by enabling organizations to uncover previously unseen patterns and develop sharper insights about their businesses and environments," David Newman, research vice president at Gartner, said in prepared remarks. "However, for clients seeking competitive advantage through direct interactions with customers, partners and suppliers, open data is the solution. For example, more government agencies are now opening their data to the public Web to improve transparency, and more commercial organizations are using open data to get closer to customers, share costs with partners and generate revenue by monetizing information assets."
The company's report noted that enterprise architects could play an important role in fostering information-sharing practices. Access to, and use of, open data will be particularly critical for a business that operates in part or in whole on the Web, and organizations should focus on using open data to enhance business practices that generate growth and innovation, Gartner's report said. "With tight budgets and continued economic uncertainty, organizations will need leaders who can craft breakthrough strategies that drive growth and innovation," Newman added. "As change agents, enterprise architects can help their organizations become richer through strategies such as open data."
Despite the clear importance of open data to an organization, the report also noted there is very little agreement about exactly what "open" means, even though openness is a pervasive and persistent issue in IT. Gartner suggested open data application programming interfaces (APIs) are a lightweight approach to data exchange. These APIs can be new sources of revenue, spur innovation, increase transparency and improve brand equity, the report noted.
"The challenge for organizations is to determine how best to use APIs and how an open-data strategy should align with business priorities," Newman concluded. "This is where enterprise architects can help. While some internal IT functions may be using APIs to fulfill local or specific application needs, the enterprise architecture process harvests and elevates good works as first-class strategic priorities that create business-focused outcomes. As a strategic enabler, APIs are a powerful means with which to build an ecosystem, and a first step toward monetizing data assets."