Close ☰
Menu ☰

Midata now law. Now for The Flip.

Posted on: Friday 26th of April 2013

The Enterprise Reform Bill, including provisions to give ministers power to require companies to release their data back to customers, has now received Royal Assent. Coincidentally, Ctrl-Shift’s Explorers Club had gathered for another foray into the changing relationship between individuals and organisations. Our focus this time: The Flip.

At top level, The Flip is a pretty simple idea. Midata says there’s enormous new value to be gained – for customers, companies and the economy as a whole – if companies release data they hold on their customers back to the customer. Customers can then use this data for their own purposes, generating a new category of information services and service providers.

But why stop at transaction and usage data? Organisations are information factories. That’s how they add value and earn their keep – by developing, creating and applying specialist knowledge and skills, most of which remain hidden from view, inside the organisation’s walls.

The special thing about information however is that, whatever form it takes (such as knowledge, expertise, insight, or just raw data),  it’s not ‘used up’ when it is used. It can be used again, for new and different purposes. The Flip focuses on a simple question:

‘what new value could be created if organisations looked afresh at their knowledge and information resources? Instead of asking ‘how can we use this knowledge, expertise and information to directly further our purposes?’, what new perspectives would open up if they also asked the question ‘how can we re-purpose this knowledge, expertise and information to help customers solve their problems and achieve their goals?’ How, in other words, can we turn our knoweldege, expertise and information  into a customer service or asset?

Of course, it’s already happening in countless different ways. When Amazon tells you that other people who bought this also bought that it’s passing its knowledge of customer patterns and behaviours back to the customer. When Fedex and DHL let customers track the progress of their parcels they are turning previously hidden operational information into a customer service. By giving individuals access to their credit scores, Noddle gives customers its crown jewels, the product it invests vas sums to build and which it sells to other companies. That’s because doing so is a good way of engaging customers and offering them new types of service.

A rich vein of opportunity

But when you look at the scope, richness and scale of the knowledge, expertise, insights, information and data that organisations currently hold ‘inside’ it’s clear these examples are just the tiny tip of a huge iceberg of potential. Categories of knowledge and information available for repurposing as customer information service include:

  • Insight and understanding of customer behaviours, including how they buy and use product and services
  • Insight and understanding of markets, market drivers and market trends
  • Knowledge and expertise of products: how they are made, what they can and can’t do, their potential and their limitations.
  • Transaction and usage data – the current focus of the midata programme.
  • Administrative and operational data such as when a guarantee runs out, the name of the tariff I’m on, or where my parcel is within the delivery system.
  • Technical knowledge about ingredients and their attributes, processes and their impacts
  • Supply chain practices including data and understanding of environmental, human rights and other issues.

Then, when you look at the scope, richness and scale of individuals’ information needs, across every aspect of their lives, from big life decisions and goals to tedious administrative chores – with thousands of purchases somewhere in between – it soon becomes clear how big the information service opportunity is.

We also looked at potential business benefits from building trust and creating consumer engagement, through reducing cost to serve, to cross-selling to the innovation of completely new services and business models.

Knowledge as empowerment

At the heart of it all is a really simple mental shift. The industrial age taught us that there are ‘consumers’ and ‘producers’, and that producers create value for consumers by offering them products and services that they ‘consume’.

An information age perspective steps back a bit to see a bigger picture. Outside of pure consumption, individuals have lives they want to live, goals they want to achieve, decisions they need to make. Making decisions about what goals to pursue, how, is an information intensive task. In this context, organisations add value by placing their accumulated knowledge, insight and expertise in the hands of their customers, to help them achieve their goals. This includes the provision of products and traditional services, but it also includes the provision of new and different types of information service.

This is the opportunity. It’s enormous. And we’ll be exploring further over the coming months.

To see our Storify with photos and videos from the Ctrl-Shift Explorers’ event ‘The Flip’ click here.