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Six steps to starting a corporate information business

Companies can turn the valuable data they collect into services, but getting started poses a number of challenges that must first be overcome.

Overview

Driven by the potential market for data and analytics-based insights, executives in almost every sector of business and industry are seeking to make money by selling the data they collect onto other companies - a process sometimes called “external data monetization”. But selling data is not a simple proposition.

These executives have many questions about launching an information and insights business. Most see its potential, but few know how to assess how great it is. They are divided over whether such a business represents a true growth opportunity or is just a chance to earn some extra revenue on the side.

Many are wrestling with the question of value: what information do they need to keep private for strategic or operational purposes, and what they can profitably sell without surrendering key advantages? And, since a good deal of data is customer data, there is plenty of concern regarding privacy rights and legal challenges.

 

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Key Insights

We spoke with 25 senior executives who make decisions about where, when and how to sell company data. Most see the possible upside, as 20 said their company possesses data with significant revenue-generating potential, and 10 are already generating revenue by selling data and insights.

Starting an information business is block-and-tackle corporate development work. Executives have to identify unmet needs and potential customers, calculate whether the opportunity justifies the effort, choose how to price and charge for the product, and decide how to operate and grow the business. They also need to find financial support—the internal equivalents of angel investors and venture capitalists.

A new information business can be a tough sell to other executives. It can look like a side business—not worthy of any attention. Data may be less valuable than initially thought. And information entrepreneurs and their bosses always worry about protecting the data they sell and whether it could be used against them by a competitor. But given the hunger for information and information services in the era of analytics and big data, information businesses deserves a place in a company’s new business development portfolio.

Recommendations

In this environment of early promise and ongoing confusion, how should a company’s “information entrepreneur” move forward? Through extensive secondary research and conversation with Accenture experts, in addition to our executive interviews, we identified six recommendations for getting started:
Step 1 Treat the information business as a digital business start-up.
Step 3 Find a big-enough sweet spot.
Step 5 Manage the information business as a value chain.
Step 2 Don’t think of selling data as an all-or-nothing proposition.
Step 4 Scout the road to long-term growth.
Step 6 Keep trust with those whose data is used in the product.

Read Starting a Corporate Information Business? Consider These Six Tips

WSJ-CIOJ-Starting a Corp​orate Inf​​​ormation Business Consider These Six Tips [PDF, 136KB]

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

We interviewed 25 senior executives who make decisions about where, when and how to sell company data. We also spoke with Accenture experts and conducted extensive secondary research.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE

The Accenture Institute for High Performance develops and publishes practical insights into critical management issues and global economic trends. Its worldwide team of researchers connects with Accenture’s business leaders to demonstrate how organizations become and remain high performers through original, rigorous research and analysis.

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