To get data to work for you, package it to answer the most important questions

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Having data is one thing, but deriving value from that data is another matter, but companies whose business has become selling data have learned to answer the questions that matter most to their customers (and to continually develop new ones to keep the business growing).

ProPublica reported on one such company, IMS Health, that's been doing this with pharmaceutical data. The company gathers information from a variety of sources including pharmacists, health plans, governments, and prescribers.

The data in its raw form is just random bits of information, and this is the same issue that any company trying to understand its data faces. You have all this data coming in from all kinds of sources, but until you package it in a way that exposes that value to your lines of business, it's all in the realm of the theoretical. As an industry, big data is still very early and what it requires is ways to put that data to work to build and improve your business.

What IMS Health has done within its niche is to collect this data and then package it into products such as National Information Offerings or Real World Evidence (RWE) Solutions, based on the categories and types of questions that customers are looking to answer across the same types of areas any business would want to understand, but with a concentration on healthcare and pharmaceutical subjects.

For example, according to information provided by ProPublica, Sales might ask a question like: Which providers generate the highest return per rep trip? For research, you might ask a question like: Which study centers have the targeted patients?

You can see that by having access to a defined data set like this with questions like these, you could save a lot of time you would have spent manually researching these questions. For the reps, you might collect data from your own company CRM and record it in a spreadsheet or generate pre-defined reports in the CRM, but that would be using a limited set of data. With this method, you could have a broader range of data that will probably answer the question more accurately.

IMS Health has access to a substantial pool of data that according to the ProPublica article includes "more than 45 billion healthcare transactions each year from more than 780,000 different feeds around the world." 

Companies can learn valuable lessons from this type of approach because ultimately every company is a data company. Everyone has data and if you can combine what you have with publicly available data sources to compare your data against a wider range, all the better.

But by gathering data and organizing it as IMS Health has done, you can begin to answer the most common questions your internal customers need to answer, and when you create data sets to help answer those, you could go a long way toward bridging that gap between the data you have and understanding how to take advantage of it to run your business better.

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