Marketplaces organize, standardize, routinize, and simplify trade. For millennia, they have made it possible for shoppers to see, touch – and sometimes even taste – the goods they seek to purchase and to compare offerings among merchants in a central location. They have imposed order on chaos by establishing governing policies and standards (hours of operation, for example). They have been a trusted and reliable resource, the places where people go to get the things they need, from gold and salt to fish and flowers. And they have evolved over time, changing and growing to sell what customers want to buy when they want to buy it, and to accommodate the many different ways that people seek to shop, from the tiny local farmers’ market to the vast suburban mall to the Internet.
Within organizations, data has become a huge and essential commodity, not unlike gold or wheat or oil. And within the organization, team members serve as both shoppers and merchants – they seek to acquire the data they need to do their jobs, and they also have data available to share with their colleagues. But how should they best store, represent, transmit, and analyze that data? How can they make it useful? How can each team or unit customize it to serve its needs and access it when they need it? How will team members know it is reliable? How can everyone in the organization contribute meaningfully, flexibly, and efficiently to creating, organizing, sharing, and analyzing this critical resource in a way that benefits the entire enterprise?