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Faculty Insights

Can Dark Data Improve Planning Processes for Businesses?

By Wisconsin School of Business

February 20, 2024

Dark data: It’s the large quantities of information that companies routinely collect from day-to-day operations and don’t always use—and even pay to store. The sheer volume of readily available data has untapped potential for helping businesses make better decisions, yet most firms are not employing it.

In a recent presentation, “Dark Data’s Impact on Planning Processes for Businesses,” for the University of Waterloo’s video series, “Thought Leaders,” Ewelina Forker shared insights from her working paper, “The Informativeness of Dark Data for Future Firm Performance.” An assistant professor of accounting and information systems at the Wisconsin School of Business, Forker’s study examines dark data and future firm performance in the context of the medical technology industry. Through a research collaboration with a large U.S. medical technology company, Forker did a textual analysis of dark email data using over 200,000 anonymized emails from more than 200 employees working in a planning capacity across the firm’s sales, operations, and accounting sectors.

The findings suggested that employee emails, “a kind of ubiquitous form of dark data,” Forker says, “are actually quite valuable in being able to predict future firm performance because they contain soft information that traditional information sources such as predictive analytic models and formalized forecasting processes weren’t able to capture.”

“Thought Leaders” is produced by the CPA Ontario Centre for Sustainability Reporting and Performance Management in the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo.

Watch the video: