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Economists say data is the new oil.
It suggests that data is the world's most valuable resource. And if your company has it, then you may be sitting on an untapped source of money.
Like an oil rig, it could be a gusher. Or it could blow up in your face. Here are some precautions to consider before you start drilling.
If your company has accumulated data over time, it has inherent historical value. Accounts, sales records, and related information tell a story of past performance.
It can also be used to guide future performance. It can train predictive machines, for example.
"You use that data as input to train an algorithm," say Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarbin in the Harvard Business Review. "And you use that algorithm to generate predictions to inform actions."
However, that training information is not as valuable going forward. New data, they say, will help your machines continue learning.
Like building an expensive oil platform, companies may invest in artificial intelligence but they will lose the potential value of their investment if they don't feed their machines with operational data.
"New data allows you to operate your prediction machine after it is trained," the Harvard writers say. "It also enables you to improve your prediction machine through learning."
Experts say big data is the new black gold, but there are hazards in mining data. Employee confidentiality, ethics and other issues lurk below the minefields.
"[E]mployee data can be a valuable resource," writes FindLaw's Casey Sullivan. "But its use needs to be approached with caution and consideration."