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Living in the big data age

Data is the new digital frontier and companies who fail to embrace it will be left behind, warn experts

“Data has the power to shape a company’s fortunes if utilised correctly.”

“Data has the power to shape a company’s fortunes if utilised correctly.”


In a recent keynote address, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella put the whole “big data” thing in perspective. “When I joined the company in 1992, the total amount of internet traffic amounted to 100 gigabytes per day,” he told the audience. “Today, 17.5 million times that much traffic is generated every second – 90 per cent of all the data that has ever been created was generated in the last two years.” 

Data is the new digital frontier and tech companies – small, medium and large – are all rushing to get in on the action. “At Dell EMC, our view is that data is priceless,” says Bob Savage, vice-president, Centres of Excellence, Dell EMC. “The value of data is the insight it can provide if analysed correctly. Data has the power to shape a company’s fortunes if utilised correctly. We are working with customers throughout Ireland – enterprise and commercial – to help them transform to data-rich companies.

Every tech powerhouse, from Microsoft and Oracle to Apple and Dell, recognise this period in the industry as pivotal. Dell EMC has even described it as the next industrial revolution. “The internet of things, an intelligent, interconnected living network, driven by processing power, populated with digital devices, appliances and people, will transform the way every business in every industry operates,” says Savage.  

At the heart of this change, stresses Savage, is data. “A businesses most powerful and valuable asset is its data. The sheer volume now being generated is simultaneously powering, enabling and necessitating the rapid change we’re currently experiencing.

Not every tech company has the resources to spend on R&D in the data analytics space. PwC’s 2016 Big Decisions Survey looked at how various companies worldwide were exploiting data and, in turn, reducing risk and making more informed decisions. The survey, which was answered by more than 2,000 company decision makers across 15 industries, including banking and capital markets, communications, healthcare, energy, utilities and mining and technology, revealed that less than a third of companies were using predictive data analytics. In fact, more than 25 per cent admitted they were simply trying to survive in this unprecedented state of disruption. 

“Data is an extremely under-leveraged asset within most organisations, and a company’s capability to access the right data at the right time can make or break the bottom line, says PwC Ireland Data Analytics Partner, Darren O’Neill. “The survey suggests leaders are stuck at a crossroads . . . [but] given the anticipated impact of each big decision on shareholder value, the stakes are high.”   

Greater efficiencies

Like so many new business innovations, initial adoption can be costly and time-consuming in the short term. But it ultimately provides far greater efficiencies in the longer term. “The survey clearly calls out that the often unrealised value of data can be used to lower the inherent risk in decision-making to become more agile and increasingly competitive,” says O’Neill. 

A similar survey, conducted by Dell EMC’s Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), showed similar results. “The ESG 2017 IT Transformation Maturity Curve study shows 95 per cent of survey respondents believe their organisations to be at risk of falling behind a smaller group of industry peers that are transforming their IT infrastructures, processes and delivery methods to accelerate their goals of becoming digital businesses,” says Savage. 

One company’s crisis is another one’s opportunity. Agile SMEs have the chance to capitalise on any traditional, established company’s failure to embrace data by entering its sector as a disrupter. “We are seeing this already with companies such as Airbnb, Just Eat and MyTaxi disrupting traditional industries,” says Savage. “Powered by data, they are leaving established companies behind. This shows just one of the values of data. Its real power lies in the business insights and intelligence it provides. If this is not harnessed and used to drive the business, companies will be left behind.”