Hello (Brave New) World

September 24, 2014 by Nate Williams

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” – Dickens

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the data ecosystem. Mix together a surge of new data sources along with cheap storage and the ability crunch data quickly – and you have a limitless recipe for the mind-boggling cocktail of new data-related tools and solutions arriving on the landscape.

How not to be excited, engrossed and enthralled by it all… Or is it, bewildered, worried and stressed?

Listening to descriptions of the data-driven future we’re building, it’s not uncommon for the word “revolution” to pop up. And given the scope and rate of change involved, perhaps this is reasonable. The impact of “putting data to work” is being felt everywhere. For instance, the explosion of mobile data is upending in the global media landscape. Open data is transforming cities and public services. And, for enterprise trend-watchers, the future is that “every business is a digital business“.

However, on the front lines of this data-driven “revolution”, the story is very different. Down in the muddy trenches, things are far more chaotic and demanding. IT staff, analytic users and even C-level managers are struggling with basic obstacles. The way forward is not so clear.

For instance, although CIOs want their organizations to be more data-driven, more than half say they don’t even know what data to collect. Or, as Dresner recently reported from folks in his weekly tweetchat, “a big challenge is data literacy” and “there are too many solutions and thus a lot of hype, which leads to confusion”.

One moment, there are tantalizing reports about data bringing dazzling payoffs. And the next, it’s staggering data train wrecks and tales of woe.

This dynamic leads to a funny kind of disconnect. Put an IT manager in front of different audiences and you might get, alternately:

  • In public (confidently): We’re leveraging data to drive competitive advantage!
  • In private (grimly): How can we possibly get a grip on using all this new data?

Perhaps these two outlooks are not incompatible, though. In order to leverage data to its full potential, a good place to start is by getting a solid footing and finding ways to drive the transformation, rather than be driven by it.

And so, it’s very important to ask, “How do I get a grip on using all this new data?”

When it comes to understanding and improving this brave new world of data we’re in, for better or worse, there are really no bad questions.

No big data or metadata - just regular data