The era of extreme data management: what businesses need to do to thrive

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No longer is data simply a string of infinitesimal numbers tucked away into some ethereal database to be stored, filed and then collect digital dust. In today’s Extreme Data Economy, data has become the business, plain and simple. The changing of the tides started in 2011, the year that the World Economic Forum recognized personal data—digital data created by and about people—as a new asset class for corporations. This no doubt led Angela Merkel, chancellor of one of the world’s largest manufacturing economies, to shortly after proclaim that “data will be the raw material of the 21st century.” At the time it seemed like a bold claim to make, for sure, but it’s one that is being proven true at an alarmingly fast rate.

Data now represents a post-industrial opportunity for socioeconomic growth. You see, businesses have traditionally been validated by the data they generated. Then came the big data era where businesses were informed by data. 

Now that we’ve barreled past this era and into the Extreme Data Economy, businesses—and even whole economies—are becoming powered by data, so much so that the data generated from conducting business can become more valuable than the actual business itself. Of course, companies like Apple, Google and Amazon spring to mind as prime examples of this, but this extreme data trend will need to be increasingly adopted by more traditional industries who wish to thrive in this new data-powered economy.

Tire manufacturer Continental is charging head first into this new normal, recently revamping their entire business model to be known as a technology company first and foremost, rather than as a premium tire manufacturer or an automotive supplier. Continental builds remote monitoring technology into their tires to collect more data much faster. This has completely transformed their fleet maintenance from a laborious and reactive process into a more automated, proactive and targeted one, greatly lowering the cost of tires for commercial fleets. While propagating a scenario where fleets need tires less often and can get them for much cheaper might have been the kiss of death for a tire manufacturer like Continental before now, their transition into a data-powered company allows them to thrive due to them wisely capitalizing on extreme data in a way that makes business sense for them.

For another great example of this, take a look at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the British drug giant that recently announced a radical overhaul of their R&D spending to focus more on data analytics. By latching on to this bigger trend and tying it into their efforts to discover links between the immune system and human disease, GSK is working to deliver the next generation of medicine to patients around the globe. The adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence allows them to process and analyze this data in ways never before possible, making drug discovery and development a more scalable feat in the process. 

Meanwhile, auto manufacturer Toyota recently completed a global reorganization focused on expanding their data science technology work. This resulted in Toyota Connected, a program tasked with consolidating Toyota initiatives across data analytics, data center management and data-driven services. These include offerings like connected and autonomous cars that share traffic details and telematics services that observe and learn a customer’s preferences. 

Continental, GSK and Toyota are just three out of numerous examples of companies across disparate industries harnessing the power of data to revolutionize their business. They are wisely getting ahead of the curve and confronting the challenges around the data that has thus far only validated their companies in ways that are allowing them to harness it to actually transform their business. Savvy companies are realizing that the Extreme Data Economy is not something on the horizon to prepare for, but rather our current reality that we must to adapt to in order to thrive.

With all of this increased attention being placed on data comes the growing importance of roles such as chief data officer, data scientist and, especially since the implementation of GDPR, the data protection officer—a role that’s become increasingly necessary in order to comply with these new EU data regulations. 

Under GDPR, companies may have to prove that they are handling the data they collect and generate correctly, which calls for greater levels of documentation and monitoring. Meanwhile, because the data-powered business operates at hyper scale and speed with hyper complexity, a new era of extreme data management is emerging which feeds the need for these more data-driven roles. Not only should these roles be present for IT and data purposes, but their work should also be stitched into the very fabric of a business’ operations.

By 2020, IDC estimates that the global volume of digital data will increase more than 40-fold. As data grows increasingly unpredictable, complex and perishable the more that we generate it, the need for real-time insights derived from this data is crucial in order to become a true data-powered business. 

In the era of extreme data, businesses must address massive sets of data at break-neck speeds, using everything from streamlined machine learning to streaming data analysis to visual foresight. Without these advanced analytics and systems, it becomes impossible to achieve the real-time insights from data necessary to power a business in motion that can act with the unprecedented agility that extreme data forces upon most enterprises today. 

Business leaders need to prioritize an innovation-focused ecosystem within their companies to properly face the Extreme Data Economy head-on. Playing it safe with our thinking when it comes to data is no longer an option. Companies that aren’t actively at the point where they view data as a means to shape business strategies, enable hyper growth and drive smarter investments will end up buried in an ensuing avalanche of extreme data. 

This expansion of our thinking around data and attaching a measure of business value to it are vital steps for moving a business forward and thriving in the Extreme Data Economy. Only then can companies start to develop informed business strategies that harness extreme data as a means for achieving welcome and profitable change.

Gary West, Vice President of Sales, EMEA for Kinetica

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