Data Value and Expertise Value

These days, data and data scientists (and data engineers?) seem to rule the world. Companies are data-driven, problems are solved using data-driven methods and national intelligence agencies (arguably: also online retailers) extensively collect all the data they can get hold of.

The data-driven approach is formalised in the Jurney-Warden Data-Value Stack:

The Jurney-Warden Data-Value stack Source:

The Jurney-Warden Data-Value stack (source)

The data-value stack is to be read from the bottom up to the top. The idea of the stack suggests: the value of the data arises from raw data through various steps up the pyramid. The link to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that the authors make implies that the upper levels of the pyramid build and rely upon the lower levels, i.e. you cannot effect actions without first collecting data at the records level, then cleaning and aggregating, exploring and inferring. In my opinion, this is a feasible approach and obviously the framework works well for some cases.

However: looking at the stack, the approach reminds me of a blind chicken which randomly picks and picks until it eventually finds a valuable corn to eat. More intelligent animals have some expertise to enhance the „random-pick“ – i.e., purely bottom-up – approach: Based on its experience, intelligence and/or guts, the intelligent chicken efficiently picks the most valuable food right from the start.

I admit, I know nothing about behavioural biology to support the claims in the previous paragraph. And yes, millions of blind chickens may help. But what I really want to say is: expertise matters, also in the data-driven world – we cannot yet proclaim the end of theory.

But how does expertise come into play in the above mentioned data-value stack? Its design principle is that higher levels depend on lower levels. I would propose a similarly shaped expertise-value stack, which aligns alongside the data-value stack. That stack would look as follows (on the left):

Expertise-Value stack (left) and Data-Value stack (right)

Expertise-Value stack (left) and Data-Value stack (right)

The expertise-value stack complements the steps in the data-value stack with the following levels of expertise:

  • Wisdom: Use your wisdom for strategic decisions.
  • Application of Interdisciplinary Knowledge: Use and combine your knowledge from different subject matter domains.
  • Application of Domain Knowledge: Apply your subject matter knowledge to the problem.
  • Information Collection: Conduct targeted collection and filtering of relevant information, like reports, opinions or results of relevant research.
  • Problem Comprehension: Before doing anything, make sure you understand the problem at hand from one or several perspectives: e.g. from the perspective of the user, provider or politician.

Obviously, the idea of domain experts collaborating with, and supporting, data scientists is not new. Indeed it has been noted that subject experts may make the difference. And this is why an interdisciplinary approach (edit 2016-02-23: i.e. leveraging both expertise-value and data-value) has advantages over a pure data driven approach. Unfortunately, the benefit of including subject experts does not come for free: It takes much time to talk to each other and you need to find good counterparts to succeed. But in the long run, this interaction will pay off.

If you are interested talking to Swiss data and information experts with an interdisciplinary approach, come and talk to the team at EBP. Contact me for details. (And thanks to Ralph for editing this post)

Stephan Heuel

Stephan Heuel

Stephan Heuel (Dr.-Ing.) hat an der Universität Bonn Informatik studiert und in Geomatik promoviert. Er leitet das Tätigkeitsfeld Systemberatung + Analytik im Geschäftsbereich Informatik bei EBP.

Stephan Heuel verfügt über 20 Jahre Berufserfahrung in der Organisationsberatung und bei der Konzeption, Erfassung und Veredelung von räumlichen und zeitlichen Daten. Er konzipiert und entwickelt datenbasierte Berechnungsprozesse, Analysen und Webapplikationen.

Dabenen unterstützt er die öffentliche Verwaltung bei der digitalen Transformation. Weiter leitet er auch IT-Projekte und ist verantwortlich für cloudbasierte Datendienstleistungen von EBP wie beispielsweise Walkalytics.


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2 Antworten

  1. The data-value pyramid is a useful teaching device. It is not intended as an overarching explanation of all things. I think it is more useful than the DIKW Pyramid, which mirrors your own.

  2. Stephan Heuel Stephan Heuel sagt:

    Thank you Russell for your comment. I agree that we should no overburden theoretical models. But I still think that the combination of the two pyramids (which basically means an interdisciplinary approach with IT and domain experts) is the best approach for problem solving.