By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy
Every projection, about the future of every industry references data. The critical question many senior executive teams have not really come to grips with is – what is the future of data? What questions are we/should we be asking? I recently asked a group of CXOs what questions they were wrestling with in the data space. Several categories of questions emerged.
Is our organization data aware enough? Are we taking data seriously enough? Are data, information, content and/or knowledge an agenda item at each and every board meeting? Are the words “Data,” “Information,” “Content” and/or “Knowledge” literally part of your enterprise Mission/Vision statement? Google’s mission since its foundation [banner headline on its corporate website] is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
In 1734, a group of English parliamentarians commented:
We all know, that what now makes a nation formidable, is not the number nor riches of its inhabitants, but the number of ships of war provided with able seamen, and the number of regular and well disciplined troops they have at their command.
Many strategists are of the opinion [validated by the empirical evidence which is stock price multiples] that organizations facile in extracting value from data have a competitive advantage over those who are not.
Very few executives are unaware that we live in a data rich environment. Very few speeches fail to include at least one charismatic factoid regarding the size of the data sloshing around the global economy.
On a single day Google processes 20 petabytes [~63,000 searches a second]. 50 petabytes is equal to the entire written collection of work by all of mankind (in all languages) since the dawn of civilization.
The awareness question is not that a lot of data exists but rather what should an organization be doing with it. What are current competitors contemplating doing with their data and what are non-traditional competitors capable of doing with data?
Everyone’s list of questions includes timing. How fast is the data environment evolving and how long does the organization have before it needs to do something substantive. The CEO at IBM, Ginni Rometty believes organizations have a five-year window to become facile with “Cognitive Computing.”
How will changes in data impact the organization – its business model, its customers, and its employees?
Where is our organization vis a vis competitors regarding data competencies?
How will responsible and optimized data capture, management, exploitation and protection be accomplished? Who will drive data exploitation programs?
When faced with challenges managing people in highly regulated, multi-generational environments, organizations deployed human resource management systems [HRMS]. When faced with challenges managing assets in complex, global environments, organizations deployed enterprise resource planning systems [ERP]. Now faced with the challenge of managing data, what kind of systems will we deploy?
Data-Based Decision Making Question
Is the data being collected being used to make better decisions? Michael Wolff, a reporter at The Hollywood Reporter commented on how the Clinton campaign bought almost 80 percent of the more than 120,000 campaign ads during the general election in Florida in an attempt to get their interpretation of the data into the minds of the voters.
Every vertical market now possesses a data service ecosystem – service organizations specializing in domain specific data-enabled value creation. Is our organization connected with the right data service partners? In the political sphere one firm [the one connected to the Trump campaign] claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. Martin Moore, a media scholar at Kings College states: “They were using 40-50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response.” In today’s political environment politicians need to know the quirks, nuances and daily habits of voters such that they can be targeted individually.
Where should we be making our data investments?
Which technologies will be emergent and which will become obsolete?
Do we have the right skills to be competitive in a data-based world?
Are there other categories of data questions we should be thinking about?