Did Software Eat the World? Or was it Data Capital?

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Marc Andreessen coined the phrase “software is eating the world” almost ten years ago. His proclamation was clairvoyant because it predicted the rise of the digital age and its corresponding impact including the advantageous position the companies who were leading the charge would have. It strikes me that we’ve transitioned from software to data – novel data – that now defines the value organizations will have. Moreover, I believe the value has always rested within the data, it was just waiting for software and hardware innovation in order to gain access to that value.

Today it is the users who have been utilizing data the most, but in the future it will be machines. This change will be similar to the way AI, IoT, and data analytics currently dwarf applications in their consumption of data. This rise will require a massive shift, not only in technology investments but also how these companies are structured and operate. We are only just beginning to understand the business value of data and how it can be leveraged effectively to create a digital business. Technology companies inadvertently created a blueprint when they started disrupting industries, and now it is easy to find examples in almost any sector where data is used.

Software eating the world in the consumer space

Perhaps the best way to showcase the potential of data comes from how it affects our everyday lives as consumers, since this has been an area where so many of us have seen the most extensive change.

I recently spent two weeks in Japan, which despite barely speaking Japanese, was one of the easiest travel experiences I’ve ever had. My tour guide was a smartphone and its applications offered insights on every level. It was easier to get around cities of magnitude far larger than the city where I live. Consumers are trained that “there’s an app for that,” and each application offers a unique value that made the entire trip a breeze. I couldn’t imagine how difficult this trip would have been without my smartphone applications.

From finding my way around a complex series of train-lines, to remotely checking into residences, to finding the best food in town – the experience was seamless and none of the details got in the way of our vacation as we traversed city after city. Probably the most telling moment was when I recalled there was a temple I had visited 19 years ago that I really wanted to see again but didn’t know how to find it again. I searched using three words: Phoenix, temple, and Kyoto. The first hit was Byodoin temple or Phoenix Hall. Using just two data points – the location and a partial description had yielded the destination, and those were not even the most accurate descriptions as Uji is the exact location, and the actual name was different.

We live in a time where getting lost, picking the wrong restaurant, or getting stuck somewhere have become optional due to our consumption and leveraging of data in our personal lives. What could that same approach yield us in business?

The rise of Data Capital as a business asset

With Smartphone adoption estimates topping 80% market penetration, we demand these types of experiences in our daily lives. Why are we still running businesses without access to that same level of data? Yes, it requires a new approach and investments, but as we’ve seen in our personal lives it would be unthinkable to continue operating a business without being data-centric. Put simply, every company is now a technology company. Where will we see data having the most significant impact on companies? In four major areas:

Digital Experiences

As we noted, digital experiences have been the way in which we have most commonly leveraged data, and these will continue to persist and grow as every industry becomes infused with technology. We’ve already seen massive disruption from digital firms challenging incumbents and disrupting industries. As data becomes connected with every aspect of our lives, these offerings will be a strong differentiator for businesses that embrace this change. The physical world will merge with the online world, offering new connected possibilities – whether it’s a web application served up to a phone or an AR/VR experience that has the potential reshape nearly every activity.

Big Data/Analytics

Another area businesses have already had some success with is big data, which offers new insights into the business. Whether it’s identifying buying patterns, segmenting customers, or identifying inefficiencies in a supply chain – if something can be measured and analyzed then it can likely be improved. It’s hard to imagine a business remaining competitive for long if it is not data-driven, as competitors will run leaner and be able to capture opportunities the data-starved organization will miss. Many industries have already experienced massive disruption as a result of digital companies such as Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, and Uber entering their markets. With the digital era upon us, data will become a substantial competitive advantage.

The Internet of Things

While this category was coined way back in 1995 at the dawn of the Internet, it has largely remained an elusive target for most organizations. With faster wireless speeds (4G/5G) and more and more data being collected, analyzed, and consumed at the edge by devices, we are finally starting to see IoT redefine how things are done across many industries. Whether it’s enabling new experiences for humans by incorporating a device with a connected service or automating activities with robotics, IoT promises to reshape how business gets done in the future, and it is data that powers these systems. These systems can offer unique experiences and streamline processes, allowing organizations to lock in profitability and offer better service to customers.

Machine Learning / Deep Learning and AI

One of the hottest areas for tech investment right now is Artificial Intelligence (AI). We are rapidly approaching a time where the sheer volume of data becomes a barrier to analysis by human beings, and this is where AI delivers value. The software and hardware evolution enables advanced algorithms to access enormous datasets in new and differentiated ways, with the ability to turn data into thoughts or actions. AI is often combined with these other three trends we’ve talked about to provide an extension of the value they offer. AI can enable companies to tackle simple tasks or address incredibly advanced use cases where human beings are not well suited to analyze the mass of data in question. Whether it’s an assembly line picker, an autonomous vehicle, or analyzing a human genome – it’s important to note that large stores of data must be collected and high computational power must be applied to achieve accurate results. AI while incredibly complex perhaps represents the pinnacle of data capital and will deliver additional value beyond these other means of leveraging data.

Data Capital is required in the future the primary way to access consumers

With consumers, it’s a choice to use data as a means to enrich an experience. However, for businesses it’s a mandate. So why are consumers so far ahead of the curve in using data compared to so many businesses? It’s because large-scale enterprises tend to have a legacy infrastructure and “data gravity” weighing them down. It’s not as easy as just buying a new Smartphone with VR and facial recognition capabilities. There is a need to modernize and safely navigate the transition of data to modern platforms. Ultimately it is perceived to be a very time consuming and precarious venture to introduce new data capabilities, but it doesn’t have to be.

Dell recognizes this is the critical challenge facing many organizations and is focused on helping them succeed no matter what stage they may be in their journey. Our storage and data protection solutions help organizations unlock their data capital as a way to strengthen and differentiate their businesses. We’ve designed our products with this in mind, and it’s also how we assist organizations to make this transition.

While some vendors suggest a complete “lift and shift” cloud strategy, and others position consolidating to a single storage hub, we understand your business is so much more than any one data platform. Our focus is on delivering the best of breed data storage and data protection solutions that provide coverage for the entire data footprint, and we work with you to determine where data should reside based on its characteristics and your business objectives.

For more information on what Data Capital can mean to your business and how Dell can help with industry-leading storage and data protection solutions read this IDC whitepaper.

And don’t forget to attend the AI event which will be available live November 14th and on demand afterward.

About the Author: Nick Brackney

Nick is a product marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in the technology space. His areas of expertise include cloud technology, the role data plays in business, edge computing, storage platforms, and IoT. He has been with Dell Technologies since 2017 and works in the Dell Technologies Cloud group with a focus on helping organizations navigate a multi-cloud world. Prior to Dell Technologies, Nick worked extensively as a consultant for some of the leading companies in technology. Ventured into the startup world with a network analytics firm in ExtraHop, and worked at Microsoft driving IoT focused product launches.
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