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"In today's information-driven economy"

My e-mail graced me with an invitation -- well, yes, a sales-pitch -- to a webinar entitled: I read on, despite the obvious sponsorship by CA Technologies advertising their ERwin product. And the opening sentence was:

"In today’s information-driven economy, data drives your business."

Now, I have held the belief for the last 30 years that "data drives your business". That, after all, is why I have been engaged in IT and focused on databases and data architecture, rather than on networking, server management, user interfaces, programming, security or any of the dozens of other disciplines within IT. At one time, before an audience in a small auditorium, I explained my interest in databases by saying simply "everyone has data".

So, what is it about "today's information-driven economy" that makes it different from the 1970's, 1980's or any previous decade?

Perhaps there is more discussion about data today. Perhaps there is more awareness. Perhaps there is more data.

That last point -- that there is more data -- is the underpinning of the current "Big Data" fad. Yes, I consider it to be a fad, not an "emerging technology" or some other major paradigm shift. "Big Data" holds that there is more data now than ever before, and as a consequence we need to attend more seminars, read more journal articles, buy more software and hire more consultants -- but only those rare (read, high-priced) consultants who understand "Big Data".

My advice is somewhat different, I think: don't.

Don't what? Well, don't rush into this without asking and answering some very, very fundamental questions. Here's a few to start with:
  1. What data are you using to drive your business today?
  2. What data are you ignoring today? Why?
  3. If you paid attention to that data, what would you learn?
  4. Are you ready to change your business, if the data tells you to?
  5. and my very favorite question, when talking about "Big Data":
  6. What is data? How is it different from "noise"?
Today's economy is information-driven, just as the economy has been for decades. And it is important to manage both the quality and quantity of data, to ensure that you're spending your time on data that actually matters. To this end, the threatened tsunami of massive volumes of data can't be blithely ignored. But, importantly, it can be intelligently ignored, if you have asked and answered the fundamental questions about data: what is it? does it matter?

While this write-up was triggered by an invitation to a webinar by CA Technologies, it is not an endorsement of CA or of ERwin.


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