Using Data to Unlock a Treasure Trove of Value
According to Seagate’s recently released Rethink Data report, “Data is a treasure trove of value.” All the world’s collected digital data—the datasphere—contains an ever-expanding compendium of data that’s highly valuable to human endeavors. As noted in the report, that includes, “urgent, life-critical information, histories of knowledge, operational instructions, manufacturing processes, chronicles of emotion,” and more.
The problem, of course, is how to unlock that value.
The rate at which the volume of data is exploding makes unlocking its value a complex endeavor for IT experts and enterprises. Simply put: to derive value from data, you must first put that data to use. But doing so requires more than just capturing and storing data—it requires an ability to sort, organize, and analyze data to determine how its business value can ultimately be discovered.
It's not that enterprises aren't trying to make use of the information they have, it's that businesses aren't capturing all the valuable data available to them. And the information that’s collected is often improperly sorted, catalogued, and analyzed, and thus cannot be leveraged.
“We are living in the knowledge economy, and organizations are still trying to figure out how to unlock underutilized assets," said Stefaan G. Verhulst, professor and head of GovLab at the NYU School of Engineering, in a recent HBR article. “It's widely accepted that vast amounts of information that companies generate represent a tremendous repository of potential value. But do organizations—and do we as a society—know how to unlock this value?"
Seagate's Rethink Data report confirms that data today is vastly underutilized. Businesses only collect 56% of available data through their operations—and only 57% of that data gets put to use.
The end result is that, on average, 68% of data available to enterprises is never put to work.
Moreover, only one-quarter of all organizations have processes in place to quantify the value of the information they do collect. Unlocking value is nearly impossible without knowing how potentially valuable the data is. And executives in most industries—from healthcare to transportation—don't view their companies as leaders in the ability to leverage information.
But estimates and intuition suggest that the value of unused data is astronomical. Take a hospital, for example, and the plethora of sources and activities that generate information. Patient history, billing info, MRIs, x-rays, and even telemedicine consultations are just a few examples of data types that could provide immense value. Estimates by analysis from the International Data Corportation (IDC) in the Rethink Data report indicate that an average hospital could be sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of unmined and under-analyzed data.
The challenge is putting the puzzle pieces together in a way that lets businesses realize the inherent value of information they’ve already collected.
The first step toward unlocking value is simply capturing more of it. Organizations need to collect the right information, store it where it’s needed, and provide it to decision makers in a user-friendly manner. But with the exponential growth in sources, devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT), enterprise IT infrastructures are strained in terms of collection and storage.
This is where data management software can help ease the pain. Data-ingest solutions can classify information at the beginning of the data lifecycle, automatically retain it through its useful period, and move it to data archives when necessary. This type of data pruning software is helping businesses harvest more without overburdening their systems and storage.
Once captured, information flows into large data lakes, making information easily accessible for software applications. Data scientists and curators can then use these software tools to mine, analyze, and visualize graphs and trends for decision makers. Creating so-called data lakes eliminates silos and facilitates the ability to make connections from seemingly unrelated elements.
Helping enterprises make new connections and insights translates to an important competitive advantage.
Improvements in edge data capture and processing, and continued innovations in data storage, are two trends that can provide enterprises with increased opportunity for unlocking massive value.
“Edge devices pose a particular challenge for data capture,” the report notes. “Often, only the edge application knows what data must be captured and acted upon, as well as what data is transient and thus can be ignored.”
Edge capture requires analysis and decision making to take place as close as possible to where the data is created.
Newer data management applications that use artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge are emerging to make rapid analysis at the edge a reality. As businesses deploy better mechanisms for data capture that don’t overload IT systems, they can begin to harvest insights that drive growth.
Multiple areas of storage innovation are also affecting the value that businesses can derive. First, the mass capacity of storage hardware is increasing, which gives AI applications access to higher volumes of information. As storage hardware gets more powerful—and can house more data—more sophisticated AI solutions can be supported. Storage capacity advances are taking place across hard drives, SSDs, and the storage systems that define much of cloud and data center infrastructure.
Storage bandwidth is also improving, enabling more robust movement of information traffic across storage, networking, and compute functions. Bandwidth is the backbone of analytics applications, as they ingest information. To improve bandwidth, for example, organizations employ composable, disaggregated architectures for complex AI applications.
Enhanced security is also making the analysis of these large data lakes more immune to breaches and compromise. The Rethink Data report notes that there has been an uptick in investment in technologies that enhance security at both the device and system levels. Businesses must have confidence that large-scale AI applications, for instance, can analyze information safely.
But innovation is no substitute for effective internal management and planning. Collecting information is the easy part; intelligence is more difficult. Smart collection and organization require overcoming challenges presented by overlapping tools, data complexity, and integration. Failure to place business objectives at the heart of information-gathering efforts will result in amassed data that provides less-than-expected value.
The report’s survey shows that in just two years, from the beginning of 2020 through the beginning of 2022, enterprises will see a 42.2% annual increase in the volume of generated data. Yet today, over two-thirds of all data available for analysis is missed, forgotten, or simply vanished.
The first step for businesses is to recognize how much information is actually missing or being underutilized. The keys to unlocking value lie in technological advances in collection, storage, and analytics. By viewing those tools and data lakes through the lens of core business objectives, enterprises can begin to unlock the treasure trove of data value.
Read more about how enterprises can put more business data to work in Seagate’s Rethink Data report.