I recently listened to Informatica CEO Anil Chakravarthy give the keynote at Informatica World 2016. Anil introduced the concept of Data 3.0, an evolutionary step where data becomes the new control point within our information technology enterprises. He asserted that businesses are becoming data centric rather than application centric.
An interesting idea, and given my role of helping businesses with their data and analytics challenges, I am inclined to help throw logs on Anil’s data-centric fire. However, I found myself contrasting his idea with the proclamation of the famous venture capitalist Marc Andreessen that software is eating the world.
These seemed to be contradictory notions. I began to wonder if I should choose a side, perhaps even letting Anil and Marc know who is wrong and right.
A bit later, I found myself in a conversation with a leading industry analyst. We had just listened to another presentation hyping the growing importance of data (such presentations have become as common as hot days in Texas). This particular pitch asserted that “data is the new bacon” and, just a few slides later, “data is the new oil.”
I joked that we needed to work on our metaphors, as each of these have political correctness issues. Bacon may not go down well with vegetarians in the audience. Oil may be seen by some as a planet killer. This analyst told me that, worse than that, our metaphors are focused on the wrong hero. Data is nothing without analytics.
I started to tell him about the Anil versus Marc quandary still lurking somewhere in my brain when it suddenly hit me. Wait. This is silly. We’re just talking about two sides of the same coin. The coin is what has the value. There’s no point in debating whether the heads side is more important than the tails side.
This new metaphor in my mind pushed me in a third direction. The coin has no value without a slot to insert it in. We need the business-change idea to apply our data and analytics to before we can create a new outcome, potentially a digital business disruption.
I have heard the Uber sensation promoted as the ultimate illustration of a data- driven business. It has also been presented as a machine-learning success story, a mobility story, a user experience story, etc. Additionally, Uber is mentioned in just about every discussion of digital business as an example of a business that has disrupted the transportation industry by using data and analytics to enable ride sharing.
In another example, Tesla’s self-driving cars have been lauded as a big data solution. But Tesla is perhaps more accurately seen as one of today’s leading breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. Sure, massive amounts of data are streamed real-time to enable the car’s sight, but that data is just data (might as well be bacon or oil), without the cognition that enables accurate interpretation.
As we look at the information technology industry’s advancement through various lenses, each of us choosing terms and metaphors that, since we are human, tend to favor our own role, we can be like blind men discovering the elephant. One of us has a rope (tail), another finds a tree trunk (leg), a third finds a snake (trunk). But all of us have embraced an elephant.
So what is the best name for this elephant that is eating our world? I don’t know. “Jimmy,” perhaps? That might be copyrighted.
Hmm. If you think of software as the encapsulation of the data and the algorithms and process change that can transform our world, then “software” might actually be a good term.
Marc Andreessen, for now, I’m going to say you’re right.
P.S. Forgive me if this blog post has you worried that metaphors are eating the world.
Post Date: 10/08/2016