Total Pageviews

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Data’s Transformation

Someday you’ll tell your grandchildren you remember the old days when data just sat there, like some list of information for people to look at.

Case in point: On Wednesday GoodData, a cloud-based business analytics company, and Box, which provides online storage, announced a product that analyzes how data is used to judge the overall health of the business. Frequent use of some particular marketing collateral, for example, would indicate it is particularly effective. Items shared between different departments could indicate new customer needs.

“Is it taking you a week or six months to really train an employee? What are your most successful salesmen using?” said Roman Stanek, the chief executive of GoodData. “There is so much data generated by every product that it is crazy not to try and capture it.”

That insight is becoming common wisdom. This product announcement follows Tuesday’s move by SAP to turn its HANA in-memory database and analysis software into a cloud-computing product that any customer can access. Last week a business social networking software company called Asana said the latest version of its product would also be useful for management to figure out who is really doing what inside the company.

There are dozens more examples of this kind of thing, with more every day, as companies start to think of every recorded process and product as a means to greater insight.

One interesting upshot of this is that data can no longer be thought of as having a single definition. It used to be that data was mostly stored and forgotten about, or drawn on for some specific purpose, like finding the number of a part, or recalling an airline reservation.

Now data is becoming a much more dynamic. An airline reservation might be saying something about when a person is headed to Denver, or how much business is in Denver, or whether people are flying or driving in trips of 150 miles, or whether a switch to a new travel service makes people book differently. All those purposes could take place within a few minutes of each other, and then recombined with some Twitter feed for yet more attempts at insight.

Before, data was mostly in a single state. Now it’s a kind of potential object, ready at all times to be combined with other data for some new insight. New databases and data frameworks, like Hadoop, have arisen to capture and exploit this. Companies doing fast retrieval of stored data, for real-time analysis, are on fire.

The Good/Box product, called GoodBox Bash, is a relatively modest example of the trend, when put against what the change in data from a static to a dynamic thing means for the tech industry, and possibly society. The companies involved already see themselves doing much more.

“We have a pretty significant roadmap for capturing non-digitized information - the stuff in your head, on paper, things you aren’t yet passing to others in a meaningful way,” said Aaron Levie, the chief executive of Box. “We think there is a massive opportunity in capturing that.”