From the time when cavemen were out hunting to provide for their families, raw data has fed decision making. Data is all around us. We can see, touch, hear, taste and smell incredible amounts of data on a daily basis. The human mind is so beautifully complex that it can process, understand, correlate, store, retrieve, and extrapolate this data, turning it into information that allows us to make decisions every waking moment of our existence.

We have always tried to rationalise information around us in order to collaborate and reuse and pass on the intelligence that we gather from the data we encounter. From cave drawings that recorded hunting tools and strategies to outwit larger and more powerful animals, through the scrolls and carvings of older civilisations that depicted the way of life, to the millions of books that fill libraries and educational institutions all around the world, we strived to share the collective wisdom that drives our understanding and our existence.

Over the last few decades, computer technology has been harnessed to simplify the process of turning data into timely and relevant intelligence. In effect, we have tried to make technology do what the human mind has always been doing. However, the internet revolution, mushrooming trends of smart devices, social media and key enablers like the Internet of Things have all contributed to the generation of immense volumes of data. Thus we are being constantly pushed to find technological innovations that will allow us to keep on top of, and make sense of the increasing volumes of data and complex information around us.

This incredible revolution of ‘Big Data’ is further illustrated by these two simple facts:

  • In 2012, 90% of all data that existed in our entire history has been created in the previous two years
  • Every day, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003

This leads us to the important question: now that we have this amount of data, what can we do with it? And therein lies the conundrum – because we don’t know what we don’t know.

WHAT NOW

For years, businesses have been handicapped by the lack of meaningful data on which to base business decisions. This could be due to a number of factors:

  • People knew what they wanted, but data was not captured
  • People knew what they wanted, but data was not extracted in a timely fashion
  • Relevant data was extracted in time, but did not provide the insight that was expected

Now, with today’s technology, data collection, storage and retrieval are no longer the issue; the priority is making sense of this plethora of structured and unstructured data. Not only does this data hold answers to questions we know to ask, but holds the key to provide us answers to questions that we didn’t know to ask. Technology can now help us to find those unasked questions.

So, now is the time for us to harness technological solutions to competently resolve this conundrum. If we are not already looking to do this in business, we should be asking ourselves “when do we start?”

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