Awakening from Data’s Dark Ages
Welcome to the Era of the Information Renaissance
Netscape Navigator was launched in late 1994 and in less than 8,000 days since it came on the scene we’ve witnessed an unbelievable explosion of access to and consumption of information at speeds unheard of in the entire evolution of humankind. I was reflecting on this just recently after my seven year old, asked me a question “Dad, which is bigger, the galaxy or the universe?”
In a matter of seconds we were able to ask Siri and get the answer. We were also able to drill down even further and find out how many galaxies are in the universe. It was one of those moments where I reflected on how long it took me to pour through encyclopedias growing up to answer a simple question like that. To my son it just seemed so normal that he would have this information on his finger tips. What my son experienced is common-place in our personal lives. Whether it is e-commerce, travel, entertainment, or health monitoring, we have Information on Demand, in the context of our need, and in our preferred mode of consumption.
Why is it that while in less than 8000 days we have made such amazing leaps forward in our personal lives, in the world of the Fortune 1000 enterprises, we still live in data’s dark ages? Why does it take anywhere from three-to-six months for a CEO to get an answer to a simple question like, “How many unique customers do we have?” Or “What product is being sold to what customer through what channel?” Unfortunately, this is the situation for too many companies even today, and it is getting worse.
Companies are spending billions of dollars in gathering, storing, and managing data. We have all the most sophisticated analytical and visualization tools in the world. Large banks have access to every bit of data about consumers, institutions, macro-economics, market trades, etc. Yet as an industry they have ended up paying close to $200 billion in fines over the last few years because of their failure to prevent compliance fraud, money laundering, etc. They have every bit of data about my household but we still keep getting invitations to apply for a credit card which we have had for 10 years.
Isn’t it shocking my seven year old son can obtain answers to any of his curious questions in a matter of seconds, yet the largest companies in the world are struggling to even get answers to the most basic of questions?
CEOs are rightly frustrated by the seeming contradiction between their investments in data and their inability to find the right information when they need it. This disparity between what we have in the consumer world and business world is getting worse by the day. While we live at the dawn of the information renaissance in our personal lives, we are still in the dark ages of data in business.
In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss some of the root causes of this sorry state of business and propose a radically different path. I will get into some basics like defining the difference between data and information, as well as changes on the horizon that will allow the business world to enjoy its own information renaissance…stay tuned!