Businesses running at the speed of electricity are going to have to change more than their IT

I’ve noticed two things that hold back businesses of late: getting the right information fast enough to make use of it, and having the company culture in place to make sure the right people get access to it. There’s no point in restricting insight to senior managers when it’s the people on the shop floor who need to know for the company to benefit. The same applies in the opposite direction, of course. What might seem obvious, mundane business-as-usual to a middle manager is insight of seismic importance to the C-Suite.

The good news is that we’re close to having the right ‘stuff’ in place to collect data and, more importantly, turn it into information that businesses can use quickly and simply. For many businesses, it’s been easy to collect the information, but once collected, infuriatingly difficult and time consuming to put it to use. It’s not just a cost issue, but one of expertise and time, too.

It’s easy to point to some sort of techno-utopia here, but we all know that moments of sudden change are few and far between. The word "paradigm" has been so overused – and the expectation of overnight revolution so often promoted – that it's lost all meaning.

Yet there is change coming, and the move to solid state storage, rather than spinning disk, has already created sudden change. Look at the Sony Walkman – rendered obsolete within a few years by flash-powered MP3 players, or 35mm film cameras – reduced to a specialist interest thanks to the combination of digital camera and flash.

The same revolution is coming to businesses – but sometimes it’s not that noticeable until you have to do without it. Most laptops, for example, now use flash storage, and the speed boost is only noticeable once you switch back to a hard drive-powered one. We notice it when it’s gone, not that it’s arrived.

We’re starting to reach a point where the physically moving parts in business IT are going to be restricted to cooling fans. Hard drives are on the way out – and they’re likely to be relegated over the next few years to intermediate backup before old data is archived to tape. Eventually, it’ll be simple and affordable enough to store everything on flash – ready to be put to use at a moment’s notice.

Once this speed, reliability and affordability becomes commonplace within businesses, a lot will change. Access to data, and therefore the processing of data into information that can be useful, will be much faster. Consequently, so will decision making.

The biggest change companies that choose to run their businesses at the speed of electricity face are cultural and procedural. If we can all use this information, and the means to ask questions is so affordable anyone within a business can ask them, then we’re at a point where hierarchies are going to have to fall. Company cultures, business departments and personal fiefdoms are all going to have to disintegrate and be reshaped by the changes that affordable, practical analytics and insight create. It would be crass to say the technological changes are easy – but one of the hardest parts of this revolution is going to be the internal change needed by people and processes.

James Petter, EMEA VP at Pure Storage

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo