By Donagh Buckley, Strategy Leader Data Management, Dell Technologies & Aurelian ‘AD’ Dumitru, Engineering Technologist, Dell Technologies
Mobile computing. Intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality. Genetic editing. Virtual assistants. Machines building machines. Chatbots. A new paradigm in innovation isn’t just dawning, it’s advancing at speed, like an avalanche.
IDC predicts that over 175ZB of data will be created by 2025. That’s ten times more data generated than in 2016. A lot of this data will be business critical, nay even life critical. Meaning if it were corrupted, stolen or just not discovered and analyzed properly, the impact would be varying degrees of detrimental.
The proliferation of data is a by-product of Industry 4.0 and the confluence of emerging technologies that are still in their infancy. With current challenges of data deluge, imagine how businesses will respond when AI becomes truly ubiquitous and more sophisticated. The Third Wave of AI (aka Perception AI or deep learning) will pull in unstructured data from eyes, ears, and a myriad of other senses – collecting data that has never been captured before.
Sound mindboggling and unlikely in the wake of the coronavirus disease, extended lockdowns and a global economy in crisis? Does talk of a ‘data economy’ seem hifalutin and out-of-touch given everything that is going on?
Maybe, but the data economy has never been more necessary. As nations develop responses to the novel virus, the greatest lament has been a ‘lack of data’. Data has been positioned as our best weapon in fighting the pandemic. The crisis has revealed three key things about our reliance on data and the imperative to respond.
1. We’ve Come a Long Way
The Chinese authorities released the genetic sequencing of the coronavirus very quickly. This has fast-tracked efforts to find a vaccine around the world. Research milestones, that normally span years, are being squeezed into months.
At the onset, the outbreak was likened to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. But our ability to harness emerging technologies to decode and analyze data is a world apart. In many ways the crisis has shown how far we have come.
2. There Are Persistent Barriers to Overcome
In addition to underscoring the importance of data, to draw up contingency plans and strategize a recovery, it has had another effect. It’s put the spotlight on businesses’ inefficient data operations, fragmented access controls and the somewhat ad-hoc nature of data protection. The parlous status quo issue is compounded by the fact that most businesses still haven’t bought into the benefits of a solid data culture in which business decisions are made based on data (instead of “gut” or “expertise”). This is not to censure companies – data management is an evolving beast.
At times we [the technology industry] have been quite reductionist in saying every business needs to be a digital business. While it’s true, we also need to acknowledge that it’s not an easy thing to achieve and there will always be practical and cultural hurdles to clear. The Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index lists the top stated barriers to digital transformation. According to business leaders across the world, the foremost barriers are:
- Data privacy and security
- Lack of budget and resources
- Insufficient workforce skills
Mastering strong data management is a herculean task. Particularly when you’re dealing with the ~70 types of data sources tracked by IDC, from transactions, logs and social media, to geospatial data, video and images; while needing to find the right data across a diverse landscape of locations quickly. And yet, paradoxically, a lot of time is expended on the mundane task of tidying up data – leaving the real innovation opportunities on the table.
3. Transformation Needs An Ignition
In some respects, the crisis has also created the catalyst. It’s amazing to see how many companies have magically leapfrogged common stumbling blocks and accelerated their transformation. In the race to compete, we are now witnessing innovation happening in weeks or months instead of years as originally planned. Agenda items like improving data literacy and fostering a stronger data-centric culture are now being tackled at a board level. For example, keeping data safe when everyone is working from home, and managing the secure connectivity of an unprecedented number of devices to company resources, has IT operations teams standardizing data security policies and procedures at levels never seen before.
However, businesses aren’t always finding the right data management solution for their needs. Broadly speaking we’re seeing two types of offerings:
- Targeted point solutions that provide limited value
- Integrated suite solutions that bundle together multiple offerings but lack interoperability and extensibility.
Businesses are starting to discern between the two and look for a better third option to derive far more value from their data.
The full promise of the data economy might seem like the stuff of science fiction today, but in time we will look back and identify certain moments in time that took the data economy to new heights. The coronavirus may well be one of them – by making us a stronger and more informed society, stemming from the realization that we need to improve how we apply data management technologies to solve such a global crisis.