BCG Henderson Institute

Many of today’s biggest industry challenges won’t be solved by a company toiling alone, drawing only on its proprietary data. Complex issues such as fraud detection, supply chain optimization, and drug discovery can often be tackled most effectively through collaboration, pooling data from multiple industry players. In this scenario, everyone wins––both individual companies and the industry at large. And the win could be substantial: in 2019, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated the value opportunity of data sharing at 2.5% of the global GDP.

Although most companies remain resistant to strategic data sharing, some industry heavyweights are already realizing the benefits. In the US, automobile insurance companies are collaborating through a claim-history information exchange called LexisNexis CLUE Auto. For these insurers, sharing proprietary claims data has significantly sped up the underwriting process and reduced liability risk; as a result, 99% of US underwriters now participate. The European aerospace company Airbus has also taken a collaborative approach with its suppliers and customers. In 2017, it launched the digital platform Skywise to address industrywide operational challenges, such as predictive maintenance and fleet performance, through data sharing. The platform is estimated to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and cost savings annually among all participants.

Such examples, however, are outliers. Even in instances when sharing data would solve some intractable problems and generate value for all involved, executives’ fears hold them back. They are concerned about the engineering and regulatory challenges and, crucially, they worry that the data they share might be used against them by other firms. But our research shows that such perceptions are largely outdated.

What’s changed? The technology. Compared with even five years ago, today’s software and tools, as well as new forms of data, can mitigate or resolve many of the engineering and regulatory challenges that companies (rightly) cite, while also reducing the need for trust between companies that would benefit from collaboration. Now is the right moment for savvy executives to revisit strategic data sharing.

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