What is Datification?

''Datification'' is a concept that tracks the conception, development, storage and marketing of all types of data, both for business and life. The term datification was popular with the data modeling community in the 1980s but was not understood well in the general community, but since the onset of the internet, social media and the improvement in global communication technology, the meaning of Datification has had a rebirth. It has grown in popularity of late June 2013 to capture how data measures things and organizations in order to compete and win. It is about making business visible.


As a process, and depending upon the application, Datification incorporates varying elements and builds upon the theories and techniques from many fields, including complexity theory and organizations, complex adaptive systems, data warehousing, data modeling, data engineering, forecasting, industrial and organizational psychology, sociology, psychology, mathematics, probability and statistics, systems theory and system of systems theory to name a few.

The subject of Datification and big data garnishes so much business interest that there are over 150,000 group members talking about its implications for life and business on linkedin and other social media sources. Datification is truly growing up! New technologies have enabled lots of new ways to “datify” our normal activities. Big Data Blogger Dr. Jonathan A. Jenkins, Professor, captures the essence of the concept and implications of this new Datification. "In today's socio-technical global community we see how Twitter datifies our short burst stray thoughts and whispers; Facebook datifies our personal experiences and friendships; and the host of our new discussion group, LinkedIn, datifies our professional interests, accomplishments and contacts. I believe as we continue to develop our abilities to render daily interactions, business and social, into more innovative data formats we will gain greater understanding of more aspects of our global business society. I also think that executives that understand, accept, embrace and champion datification will be able to guide their organizations to effectively leverage the continuously evolving scope of data management to exploit opportunities that will garner their organization a competitive advantage and set them apart from those that fail to embrace and invest in datification."

Timo Elliott goes on to say, “Even reading books is now datified. While I’m reading on my Kindle device, it’s actually watching me. Amazon tracks my reading data and uses it to provide useful services. For example, it knows what page I’m on, so I can easily switch between different devices. It uses my reading speed to estimate how long it’s going to take me to finish a book. And they’ve incorporated some aspects of the wisdom of the crowd idea – for example, I can choose to see which passages other people have highlighted as the most interesting. That data is also being collected and analyzed by Amazon to optimize book sales. For example, when I recently finished a book in a series by Ken Follet, I received an email the very next morning, giving me a special offer on the next book in the series (interestingly, at a price that was higher than the current “normal” price…) Amazon can, and probably will, do lots of other things with this data in the future. For example, they could work with authors to help them optimize their books, showing them which passages people find hard to read, or identify at which pages readers tend to give up on the book.”


Timo Elliott, YouTube and Forbes article, The Datification Of Daily Life, The Datification of Daily Life, 2013-09-10

TimothyFowler, CEO, Datification.com, Afghanistan Lean Six Sigma, DATIFICATION!! What's the big deal? And why your business needs it?

Dr. Jonathan A. Jenkins, Professor, Datification Group, Datification 2013-09-09

Timo Elliott, The Datifiation of Daily Life , Timo Elliott, 2013-09-09


In a 2013 YouTube presentation, datification expert Timo Elliott says, “Datification is about taking a process or activity that was previously invisible and turning it into data. That data can then be tracked, monitored, and optimized, leading to new opportunities — and new challenges. It’s similar in some ways to the notion of 'dark data' – data that has been ignored up until now because of technology limitations. Only in this case, it’s more like 'dark activities' that are now being pushed into the light.

Business data is growing exponentially, at a rate of 50% per year!

In this vein Datification should be viewed as a Qualitative data/level of measurement process Multimethodology/mixed method, Qualitative research/ qualitative and Quantitative research quantitative, that involves defining, measuring and analyzing existing “invisible” processes and activities to produce actionable data that can then be tracked, monitored and improved to optimize processes, make better business decisions and inform innovation.

In Practice

Datification works hand-in-hand with many business management strategies that focus on the analysis and design of processes and workflows within an organization. For example, Datification is closely linked to concepts in lean manufacturing which espouses openness in metric reporting. Datification proponent and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Timothy Fowler have been successful in assisting Datification while helping the military in Afghanistan. "The US Army is successfully using datification in the Afghanistan drawdown. It is a powerful tool in bringing all the parties together, making metrics clear, and ensuring all are on the same page." Where Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects, or errors, and minimizing variability in business processes and manufacturing; the Datification process informs Six Sigma of the relative qualitative and quantitative factors and key process variables that must be defined, mea sured, analyzed, improved and controlled or verified for Six Sigma performance to be achieved.

A New Mindset

Datification is as much about mindset as it is about process and application. Datification is now beginning to touch all aspects of business. “For example, most commercial vehicles now use GPS to track and optimize journeys. Even tires are becoming datified: Pirelli has embedded sensors into truck tires that constantly beam back information about the tire pressure and temperature, and this is used to calculate tire wear, helping lengthen the lifetime of the tire and optimize preventative maintenance. We can expect to see much more datification in the future: it makes a huge amount of sense to datify our health, for example – soon, we’ll all be wearing sensors that track our temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and so on. Doctors will be increasingly able to advise treatments not to cure us, but to prevent us from getting sick in the first place.”

As technology grows and the pricing drops, we are going to see many other activities datified, A major goal of Datification is to make it easier for interested parties to locate, aggregate and coalesce meaningful data with greater ease and quicker speed. Datification practices and methodologies impact how data is accessed and how research is conducted across various academic and occupational domains, including the biological sciences, business administration, engineering, humanities, medical informatics, and social sciences. As such, scholars and practitioners must think about Datification with a holistic mindset.