Software is eating the world but data problems are choking it!

Big Data

Dissecting the types of pain to evaluate the technology and how to cure your blindspots

Saying the amount of data available over the past 20 years has exploded would be like saying it’s only lightly raining in a category five hurricane. Some might say this explosion gives business leaders unprecedented power to run and operate their balance sheets. Others will probably tell you that there is too much information and they need a better way to manage it all. Either way, the first priority for a business leader should be to focus on how technology can alleviate the business’s pain. Without a clear idea about why the business is struggling, you are simply buying for the sake of staying relevant. The plain truth is this: if you can’t get your arms around your business you will go to work every day feeling out of control.

Separating your data pain into smaller bites

When it comes to data overload, every executive is trying to manage many things. For one, there is a massive amount of 1st party data you have to organize in your own business. This data, on its own, is incredibly important because it's the fingerprint of your own inner workings. It is often littered with gaps, poorly aligned, and honestly gives a very limited picture of your business. Why is that so? Because no matter how efficient you operate your data it only tells a one-sided view of the world. It is critical, but it is not enough to be all-knowing or all-seeing.

On the other side of the fence is the 3rd party data. It is an even bigger problem for several reasons. The data outside your business is at least several orders of magnitude bigger. Second, you have to decide what information is even relevant. 3rd party data is sexy because it gives business leaders a window in the competition, other consumers, even information like weather or logistics which can be external factors that affect your business. Even though this is true, sifting through or even getting access to this kind of information makes the 1st party data part easy.

No matter what, getting clean usable data is hard. But let’s say you have found the magic tool or data sets you must have. What’s next? How can you go about assessing technologies' utility? This is where defining pain comes in. Why should you do this? Because if you can’t categorize how the technology helps, in general, then you are bound to make a mistake in its implementation. At a high level, you need to deeply understand your business pain before you can even consider which tool you should buy, to build a process that your culture will actually adopt.

Let’s talk about pain

Here are four types of pain you might consider as you filter through new technologies

Pain #1: You don’t have enough people to help you find the problem

The first pain is simple. No matter how powerful the technology, it will require people to interpret where the problems are. Marc Andressen was right, “Software is eating the world,” and that is an important ingredient for success. However, the software doesn't alleviate this pain. No matter how efficient the software, there is still more data being created than it can easily manage. And if you need more software to filter even more data the following new quote, “Data is choking the software that was supposed to eat the world” is now the new norm. And the vicious cycle of needing the right people to manage the software that manages the data never goes away.

Pain #2 You don’t have the right data to know its a problem

As stated above, getting your arms around the 1st party data is hard enough. Knowing what data is most valuable to manage your business is an ever-evolving problem. Fortunately, new ways of learning about external factors are always around the corner. To this end, ask yourself, “what in my dreams do I wish I could “see” about my business?”. Because making a list of data you wish you had is probably not wishful thinking any longer. But don’t fool yourself, with the data deluge only getting bigger, you may believe you can “see” everything in your business but the reality is that you can’t. And even if you can “see” really well, you have to be relentless in your pursuit to “see” better than you do right now.

Pain #3: You don’t know it’s a problem before it’s too late

This pain is different. This is about visibility and traceability. Can you map your entire value chain? Can you see the critical failures before they even occur? You can visualize conceptually how these disruptions can hurt your business, but do you have an actual way to map any of that out? If you can’t find 3rd party data to “see” in places that can cause challenges to your business, then you are always at risk. And the danger in your value chain puts your bottom line in jeopardy each and every day. With the empty store shelves all of us are seeing more frequently, the importance of getting ahead of problems before they strike is pretty obvious.

Pain #4: You can’t provide the transparency your customers demand

In a world where customers have more and more information at their fingertips, you need to be able to be prepared to support what they expect from you. Gone are the days when consumers trust companies' word when it comes to doing the right thing. Today, the information age has given them both an unprecedented voice and power over you. And the one way to answer calls to meet the ever-rising consumer transparency bar is to build processes that show you take their needs seriously. Twenty years ago, people didn’t have even a marginal awareness of how the food they put in their mouths connected to the destruction of natural resources. Today, your job as a business leader is to make sure they feel you are operating with a level of decency that can drive your bottom line and their consumer demand in a responsible way.

Today companies want better and more efficient ways to sift through all the data bombarding them, no one is saying I need more of it, they tend to complain there is too much. But between that cry for better data lies the more pressing problem, does the technology have the chops to cure my blindspots and highlight the issues I can’t see? To answer this question, all business leaders need to use the types of conceptual methods presented here to test and learn how qualified a technology is to improve their processes. With more universal pain filters as a guide to buying new technology, we can go back to the software simply eating the world rather than misleading ourselves into thinking that this same software is too full of data to even swallow another bite.

We’ll look at how to see your business in new ways in the next blog. In the meantime check out how a U.S. energy company with global refining operations earned significant profits by using Orbital Insight's GO platform to monitor over 50 competitor refineries - delivering timely, objective, and actionable insights for refined product pricing: