A while ago 13 years old son asked me if I was familiar with the term ‘Infobesity’? To be honest I had heard of it before but was unsure about the correct definition so I had to look it up. It quickly found out that the word is a combination of Information and Obesity and describes the poor nutritional value of information and not so much the quantity. As there is a tsunami of information available at our fingertips we no longer feel the need to learn things by heart. Instead we ‘eat’ the small snack food like information we get every second or so from facebook, twitter, blogs. One of the things I found out is that all words that have ever been spoken out loud by human beings can be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data. This year(2010) we expect that about 12 exabytes of information will be produced . By the way, an Exabyte is one quintillion bytes or 1 billion gigabytes or 1 million terabytes or…
So if we look at this increase in data (or Big Data as it is often called) we see many organizations take a defensive approach in dealing with this ‘problem’. As many complain about the performance (of getting data in but also of getting data out of the datawarehouse) or memory (“must be faster let’s use flash”, “must be bigger buy extra”). As a result we see all kind of technology driven solutions to deal with this increase. The rise of the datawarehouse appliances (Teradata, Exadata, Neoview, Netezza just to name a few) are the best examples of this defensive thinking. We create big mean machines, that we can actually see and hug, to fight of this beastly increase of data.
This traditional application centric or technology driven approach has gotten us into trouble over and over again in the past. It has led to situations where the organizational information capabilities, such as decision making, are based on hindsight. The organization is reactive, responding to events that have occurred in the past. In nice and fancy consulting speak: it results into a low transformational capability. In plain English: “What just happened to us?”.
I very much prefer to take a more information centric approach to dealing with this data increase. This path will enable organizations to address not only the “what” but also the “why” and can even lead to a “what if?”. A recent study has showed that “some executives remain overwhelmed by the well-documented ‘data deluge’ – 60% still say they “have more information than we can effectively use. However this research also shows that leaders of the smartest organizations have moved past “overwhelmed” and are already capitalizing on increased information richness and analytics to gain measurable competitive advantage”.
It is about time that we start treating data not as an obstacle but as an opportunity. Let’s use this massive amounts of consumable materials and turn them into a strong offensive. Go team!