From the number of stars in the universe to grains of sand on a beach, metaphors fail to quantify the vast amount of information that businesses have to contend with today.
With the size of our digital universe doubling every two years, even the most creative comparisons are rapidly dwarfed by yet more data. In fact, by 2020 it is estimated that the data we create will reach 44 trillion gigabytes.
Individually, corporate giants like Walmart will collect upwards of two petabytes of data each hour, the digital equivalent of 50 million filling cabinets.
And that’s just the data they’re specifically pulling in themselves. Unlike filing cabinets, most of the data that’s out there on the internet – the millions of articles, tweets & blogs – isn’t structured, making it even more challenging to interrogate and extract meaning from.
Roughly 80% of all the data available today falls into the “unstructured” bracket. For those inside large businesses looking out, distilling timely intelligence from such a fast growing data landscape is an issue that warrants a great deal of attention.
As a result, any business that needs to develop a clear understanding of its risks and opportunities faces tough challenges. The most obvious is that, with so much data available, it is extremely tough to define and understand the full extent of any individual risk as well as the full risk landscape faced by a business.
And that’s before they come to then evaluate the significance for the brand, business model, supply chain, stakeholder relations, ability to innovate, as well as to protect and enhance reputation and shareholder value.
At worst, the unprecedented, and exponentially growing risk landscape creates a smokescreen of information in which it becomes almost impossible to distinguish the simmering issues that could become tomorrow’s headlines.
It’s a situation made more precarious by social media, and the unpredictable and visceral way in which issues can be elevated to global attention at speed. Blind spots in this context are particularly hazardous.
But technology continues to show us that no problem is without a solution. The more complex the problem, the more intricate the solution required, but despite the size of the challenge, making sense of data is a battle businesses are winning. Here’s how.