Data is the new Internet

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In the mid 90s, the Internet emerged as the digital wave that allowed connectivity of a different order among companies, consumers, employees, and citizens. This phenomenon has since evolved into ecommerce, B2B, B2E, G2C portals and, more recently, the Internet of Things (IoT).   

However, it simultaneously triggered another phenomenon of information discovery, search and collaboration. For example, companies like Google power many billions of searches a minute, helping consumers learn and discover almost without limits.

By contrast, today’s world is more driven by data. Data is shaping new opportunities, helping organisations discover new ways of working, transform customer engagement, and acquire deeper knowledge of their business, customers and products. In short, the world today is more driven by knowledge, learning and automation as opposed to by mere connectivity.   

Increasingly, we see companies looking externally to find and share information that has significantly more value when combined with its own data. Today, around 85% of the data that enterprises need comes from outside their four walls. Think how healthcare companies increase the value of their data when combined with real-world evidence data, coming from fitness devices, medical devices, and social data about patients’ lifestyles, to name just a few.    

Similarly, data now connects the unconnected – people, processes, applications, machines, departments and even organisations – and joins them in a way that opens a new world of opportunity. Data creates compounded value as it transcends boundaries and discovers new potential that transform industries.   

It has become clear. Data is the new Internet. 

Beyond discovery   

This “new” Internet is powered not only by discovery and access, but also knowledge, learning and cognitive capabilities. We see data powering the value of information beyond discovery to cognition, artificial intelligence and prescriptive action.   

This has driven new possibilities – evolving business models, identifying new revenue streams, new data-driven products and services etc. Enterprises seek to achieve new strategic objectives with data – driving innovation, experimentation and closer engagement with their customers, employees and other stakeholders. Data is the new strategic asset transforming every industry, creating new business models and driving new opportunities for innovation and also competitiveness.   

Data is at the epicentre of this model. It has changed from being structured to unstructured, historic to real-time and future-focused, becoming more cross-domain instead of being siloed.    

Reimagine processes with new data paradigms   

The next layer of impact is the application of data, where one can reimagine value-creating processes of an enterprise – order to cash, procure to pay, concept to shelf, hire to retire etc. For a long time, enterprises have tried to leverage data and insights to drive new efficiencies and effectiveness in the processes. In my view, data, analytics and AI drive newer experiences and engagement with customers, yielding new business models and hence the “reimagining” of processes to support these new models.   

Beyond this, we find the transformation layer. Data is driving newer digital interactions, and those new interactions provide rich information that can be leveraged for better understanding of customer behaviours and also to enable new interactions. The transformation layer of artificial intelligence expands and amplifies the value space of data. The ability to achieve hundreds of new possibilities is predicated on automated, autonomous operations and disintermediation that can support business opportunities in real time. Meanwhile, machines, wearable, equipment, networks, and sensors feed real time data that helps provide a 360-degree view of ecosystems and their performance, identify patterns, and drive newer efficiencies and opportunities. 

The next evolution   

In the future, we’ll see data driving automated learning, and also influencing and enabling new interactions. This will help to create newer business models and support shifting of industry boundaries. Much like how the Internet re-shaped our thinking, data will further enrich us through deeper learning, prediction, automation capabilities and collaboration across various entities across the new value chain. 

This will drive new business models and ways of engagement, much like how .com did in the 90s. We will see new data marketplaces powered by knowledge, learning, AI and automation that drive new discoveries and business outcomes. It will fundamentally shift the role and positioning of “informediaries”, making them more central and accessible in the value chain.   

All significant transformations come with their own risks and barriers, just as the first Internet did. But the fact that this wave comes after the Internet helps immensely because we can learn from our earlier experience with this older transformational technology. For instance, the evolution of cybersecurity will also drive capabilities around data security. When customers look at processing more and more data across domains, the role of cloud will become more prominent and hence security, compliance, and collaboration will evolve in a similar way. We already see this happening – GDPR is a step towards that, while AI promises to have an even bigger impact on capability. 

The enterprise opportunity   

Data is a strategic asset that fundamentally changes the opportunity landscapes in which enterprises operate. It opens up new revenue streams, enables new services and better knowledge of customers and the ecosystem in which they operate. Just look at how connected cars, gathering data on usage and driver behaviour, enable manufacturers to offer new service models, influence infotainment options, and provide route and destination recommendations. Another way to deliver a data-driven product is through data itself. This includes: selling data in compliance with privacy and other regulations through anonymisation, tracing and lineage, and data licensing etc. We see similar possibilities across the full range of industries, although each application and opportunity will obviously differ depending on the sector.   

So, in summary, data is connecting the unconnected and creating new frontiers for innovation, collaboration and learning. It enables enterprises to get deeper knowledge about their business and customers, innovate better, and realise the potential of data to transform their industry – taking the Internet paradigm to the next level.       

Sunil Senan, Vice President of Data & Analytics at Infosys    

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