Getting real about data sharing standards

Businesses are waiting for a one size fits all solution to data sharing, but could this be dangerous for your organisation?

Utilities 16 Feb 2022 by Gemma Beard


“We need action” – the part we all agree on

Businesses today across all industries are facing a multitude of challenges. How do we reach net zero targets? How do we share data safely and effectively? How do we keep up with the demands for cost efficient solutions and evolve into a future ready business? 

There’s no disagreement that we need action and the world is waking up to the fact that we need to share data better, internally, externally and across sector boundaries. What we seem to be lacking is a plan of action that involves taking real steps to evolve businesses today. 

Projects like CReDo and Icebreaker one are aligned with us all on this view and are working to come up with the technology that will enable us to share data in a collaborative way. These projects demonstrate good intent but do they turn the needle sufficiently to generate change?


The myth of the silver bullet

Organisations are troubled by the lack of common standards around sharing data. They feel as though their objectives aren’t possible until an organisation or a central government body acts as the silver bullet to all of our challenges, however, it’s optimistic at best to think utility companies across the globe are going to adopt the same common standards that will enable meaningful sharing of data. 

When taking data sharing outside sector boundaries, the common data standard becomes even more problematic. Can we honestly expect water, electricity, gas, emergency services, and transport companies all to be working from the same common data standards? A positive use case for cross-sector data sharing is how we can better support vulnerable customers in the community, and how utilities can share real time information on any loss of service with the emergency services to minimise risk to the customer. This requires interoperability of data across sector boundaries.

Waiting for a central body to resolve the common data challenge could be both costly and dangerous. For this to be realised, you’d need to set up and recruit a chief data officer. The recruitment and audit processes are lengthy and they’d need  to take, confirm and disseminate that position. Only then does the real action start and by that point, five years have gone by. And what happens when central bodies then change their standards?

Companies are wasting crucial time. Waiting for the silver bullet is going to be financially costly. Innaction today means creating further problems down the line. Your competitors will have raced ahead and your net zero targets will be totally unattainable. Simply staying above water would mean enormous investment to simply catch up and maintain your position against your competitors. 


What real action does not look like

Effective data sharing ecosystems don’t appear overnight. In other words, you need to start building them today in order to reach your 2030, 2040 and 2050 business goals.

Forming committees and communities who then tell us that we need to act and what best practice looks like when acting will only drive us round in circles and doesn’t bring us any closer to the part where we actually start sharing data and delivering value. 

What it boils down to so far is a lot of investment in research projects that have yet to produce tangible results. We don’t need more funding for these projects, nor do we need to build more of them. We could be finding ourselves two years down the line asking the same questions. 


What real action does look like

Taking real action today will enable a better understanding of the challenges and learnings for the future, so we can make real tangible progress.

The simple phrase “we need action” isn’t enough on its own. Acting for real means acting on real data in real environments at scale. We are past the point of pilots, standalone, time limit explorations, and innovation fund-based showcases. 

The wait for the common data standards is over, the time to start and scale is now. The technology for sharing data and evolving your business and reaching net zero targets already exists. 

To find out more, contact Gemma Beard to start the data sharing conversation.

“We have the knowledge, we have the technology, we know it makes social and economic sense”

Johan Rockström


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