How to Make Data Exhaust Work for Your Business

on August 31st, 2016
Big data

When you think of exhaust, you probably conjure thoughts of something useless that is to be discarded and put away forever. Exhaust fumes from vehicles, the exhausted breath from your lungs, exhaust that spills out of factory smokestacks, and other methods of expelling useless waste likely come to mind. But when it comes to data, your data exhaust might hold as much (potentially more) value than the primary data you’re collecting, storing, and analyzing. What is data exhaust? What can you do with it? Where do you get it? Let’s explore.

Understand Data Exhaust

Data exhaust is the byproduct of activities that produce data. Put another way, it’s the byproduct of your monitoring — the data generated when you monitor your network or systems, monitor transactions (either online or at POS), and monitor behavior (such as searches or website visits). Other data exhaust is generated as your workers create and store documents, such as internal memos, emails to customers, promotional campaigns, and more.

This exhaust is essentially a trail. It holds valuable evidence of trends, preferences, understanding or lack of it, and much more. It can deliver deeper insight on your customers, which can be used for a variety of things from making strategic decisions to developing better products.

There are essentially three ways to deal with your data exhaust. You can leverage it internally or sell it for external use — or both. There’s no rule that the data has to be tossed after it’s used for internal purposes. A data lake is the ideal way to capture and store your data exhaust, because it allows you to hold onto data in its original format even without knowing exactly how you’ll use the data in the future. In many cases, you may find use upon use upon use for this raw data. If it’s stored in its native format, it hasn’t been altered, so it can be used again and again for various purposes, and then saved again in its altered format, in case additional uses are found for that.

Leverage Data Exhaust

How can you put your data exhaust to work for you internally?

  • Use it for R&D. Data exhaust holds key information about what people are looking for in products. For example, when they found your red widgets, were they really looking for oversized widgets, and settled on yours? That indicates there’s probably a wide open market for oversized widgets that you can tap into.
  • Use it for marketing. Maybe your widgets are the largest available on the market. Perhaps this is what your marketing team should focus on, instead of touting the redness of your widgets.
  • Use it for customer service. Were too many customers unhappy with the red widgets? Perhaps they preferred a brighter red, or maybe a deeper red. This is valuable information for quality control, marketing, research and development, as well as customer service.

Obviously, there are many more examples. The point is, data exhaust holds valuable insight and information that can be used across the organization to improve your products, as well as your ability to market your products to relevant audiences. It can even serve as a valuable resource for finding new markets that would be interested in your products.

Monetize Data Exhaust

Third parties can also benefit from the information and insight squirreled away in your data exhaust. Though you might not want to sell it to a direct competitor, it could benefit your partners, your vendors, industry associations, and others. Data exhaust can also be a valuable trade commodity. For example, say you need access to social firehose data. Perhaps a quarter’s worth of your data exhaust might be worth a few weeks of social data?

However you make use of your data exhaust, be aware that it’s there and that it does hold value. From there, the sky’s the limit! Looking for more ways to make use of your organization’s data? Follow us on Twitter for the latest news and information.