Revised Guide on Open Data Business Cases

A few weeks ago, we invited comment on the draft of our guide "How to make a business case for open data". We had around thirty comments, both within crocodoc and via email, most of which have been incorporated into the published version of the guide.

One theme of the comments that didn't lead to changes from the draft was that opening up data has a wider social good, while the business cases described in the document were focused on the good for the data publisher themselves. For example, fjlopez commented:

IMHO the benefits of open data for the society at large cannot be well described with these business models (e.g. reduce data acquisition costs, enable the development of new products)​

and @timdavies commented:

I think the case for public sector needs more focus on public task and social value - which would have a different tone.​

The focus in this guide on short- to medium-term value for the data publisher themselves is deliberate. A business case for open data generally needs to convince sceptics. Long-term benefits, particularly for society as a whole rather than the organisation that is bearing the cost of publishing data, are unlikely to be convincing to them. This applies in the public sector as much as the private sector.

A second set of comments that we didn't incorporate into the guide were those that said we should stress the importance of standards:

@timdavies: Associating the opening of data with the impact of industry standards in bringing value to the industry; and in establishing a strong position for those who co-operate through common standards, might be useful to do.​

@glyn_dk: Here it would be good to mention meta data standards are being developed in various fields to facilitate sharing and increase the value of the data shared.​

Michael: This point about data standards needs far more weight.

There are implementation costs but of course ultimately efficiencies and savings associated with data exchange standards adoption (that's partly why standards exist) and on the other hand, the value of the data (also financially) will be higher as the ease of extracting useful results from it will be far greater.

Ultimately data is only as valuable as the information it conveys and for this you need properly developed semantic and syntactic standards.​

We agree that it's important to adopt standards formats and protocols when embarking on an open data project. But using standards is part of how you publish open data to get maximum value from it, not why you publish open data in the first place. This guide only addresses why.

Finally, many commenters requested more detailed case studies that demonstrated a business case being put together. We have added links to examples of businesses that use open data business models of the types discussed in the document, but it is one of our goals to put together more detailed case studies as time goes on.

Our thanks to @timdavies, @ntoll, fjlopez, @ldodds, Simon Whitehouse, Brian, @glyn_dk, Michael, Christopher Gutteridge and Michael Hopwood for their comments.