The Data Frame

October 28, 2011
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Author: Phil Simon @philsimon

Author: Phil Simon @philsimon

I was watching BloombergWest the other day when John Battelle appeared on my screen. For those of you who don’t know, Battelle wears a number of impressive hats. While not writing, he chairs Federated Media Publishing. He is also a visiting professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In short, he knows what he’s talking about.

Battelle was discussing the evolution of all things technology and, in particular, the movement away from the PC to mobile devices. He also mentioned something called The Data Frame, the theme from the forthcoming Web 2.0 summit. Battelle explains what he means:

For 2011, our theme is “The Data Frame” – focusing on the impact of data in today’s networked economy. We live in a world clothed in data, and as we interact with it, we create more – data is not only the web’s core resource, it is at once both renewable and boundless. [Emphasis mine.]

Consumers now create and consume extraordinary amounts of data. Hundreds of millions of mobile phones weave infinite tapestries of data, in real time. Each purchase, search, status update, and check-in layers our world with more of it. How our industries respond to this opportunity will define not only success and failure in the networked economy, but also the future texture of our culture. And as we’re already seeing, these interactions raise complicated questions of consumer privacy, corporate trust, and our governments’ approach to balancing the two.

Is Battelle ultimately right? I tend to think so. But, beyond that, as I listened to Battelle and researched his notion of The Data Frame, one thing struck me:

Most organizations are under- or unprepared for it.

Now, there are two parts to this fundamental lack of preparation, both of which I’ll discuss in this post.

People

Particularly in large, conservative organizations, far too often many people don’t think of things in terms of data and information–and this is the most significant problem. Decision makers fail to realize that everything is data. Decisions are made often by gut feel, despite the fact that for years decision analysis tools have existed to assist people in making superior choices. How many people do you know with access to sophisticated BI applications who continue to rely upon Microsoft Excel?

Lamentably, many organizations have yet to get their arms around the web and its implications. Legacy systems still abound and rare is the organization that has completely embraced Enterprise 2.0 and its components, including–and arguably most important–cloud computing.

The bottom line is that not enough people think in terms of data, a limitation that invariably influences the choice of which technologies are–and are not–deployed within organizations. While many in old-school enterprises debate what to do and how to do it, the chasm between them and companies that do get it (read: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) widens. The latter companies are so valuable and admired today because they are building and deploying sticky, integrated, and data-gathering planks and platforms. They’re not just trying to “get” the web. They did that a long time ago.

The Explosion of Mobility

The web has been here in full force for nearly two decades, but enterprise mobility is a much more recent advent. While a few companies have experimented with internal Apple-like App Stores, these are the exceptions that prove the rule. For this reason, consumers and consumer-based companies–not enterprise IT departments–are leading the current technology revolution. This is in stark contrast to what I call Enterprise 1.0 in The Next Wage of Technologies. In the 1990s, people walked into the office to use the most powerful technology. These days, however, the opposite is often true: many people have more powerful devices on their hips than on their desktops.

Simon Says

Once again, it’s all about the people. It is incumbent upon the powers-that-be to fundamentally alter their mindsets. Data need not be a “icky” problem to manage. On the contrary, it represents myriad opportunities to recognize and harvest. Once change- and risk-averse executives realize this, they can implement the apps, data models, and the like necessary to survive in our dynamic world.

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