‘Datafication’ is a newly invented word, and like many of that ilk it is painful on the ear and embarrassing on the tongue. But for all its ugliness, what it describes – the creation of data through the extraction of measurable features from the unstructured information that surrounds us and quantifying, classifying or categorising them – is arguably the single biggest contributor to human progress. Datafication has delivered the numeral system, maps and double-entry book-keeping; underpins the scientific method, statistical inference and ratio visualisations; without which the world we live in would be far less advanced.
“So what?”, you may say. These things were happening long before a few neurons got overexcited and the word datafication was born. Why is it important?
The simple answer is that in the digital age the rate of datafication is accelerating. The ability to capture information from the world around us via digital technology, quantify it and pattern match it with other data is unprecedented. These new forms of data will become an increasingly important source as we seek to predict rather than simply understand. As any data scientist will tell you, the broader and more complete the set of data a model is based on, the more accurate it will be.
Even something as abstract as human behaviour can be quantified; how is covered in my latest article on insight advantage.
In this article, I use the example of someone being interviewed regarding a crime, but the same principles apply in different situations, for example to identify genuine buyers who need help in making their purchase decision from browsers who have no intention of buying and where sales effort will be wasted or shoplifters who need to be encouraged to leave. More obviously the same applies with on-line behaviour. And the organisations that are best able to collect and analyse this diffuse information about customer behaviours will be the ones that end up with insight advantage.
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