Saturday, November 26, 2005

imho bottom up: companies want to own the data


Start: napS-

The only data—literally, “given”—is the persistence, in the aggregate, of demand, currency, and customers, none of it truly “owned” by any company, any more than any one organism can own the air we all breathe.

Sure, companies want to own the data. They want to own everything, and not have to answer to others or be “stewards” of resources owned elsewhere. They want to be self-contained autonomous ever-expanding universes.

Your and my identity is their prime resource. It’s a given, just as the sun shines. Their dreams of owning our identities are part and parcel of the imperial business ethic, which the late, great Peter Drucker inadvertently sloganized when he said the purpose of business is to “create” customers. Yes, to create customers—you and I--just as God created the heavens and earth, and then set about naming every beast of the land, sea, and air. If you’ve gone to great lengths to create a productive little ecosystem, wouldn’t you too take a proprietary interest in the identities of every creature under your dominion?

Companies want to expand forever—which is, of course, impossible in a closed universe. Under such circumstances, one creator will quickly dominate all others and deprecate them to some subordinate rank, be it lackey angel or apostate devil. Companies quickly realize that the customer they think they created in fact predated and will survive them—and has an identity and sovereignty and loyalty to no one but themselves. The customers are in fact the gods of commerce, and will just as readily destroy a company as create and sustain it.

You can’t own customers. You can only earn their repeat business. And you can’t own their identities. You can only ask for customers to continue recognizing your identity, and recognize your right to continue existing as a business. Yes, you can collect and hold their identity data. But you can’t hold customers indefinitely unless you vanquish all competition.

Or continue to ask the sovereign identity holder for access to their datum. And give them something of value in exchange for this precious currency.