Data is Dumb. Making Sense of it is Smart

Takeaways from the 2015 Gartner ITxpo

This week close to 10,000 CIOs and senior IT executives made the annual pilgrimage to Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort for the 2015 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. While many were presumably eager to take a ride on Space Mountain, the majority of attendees were there to learn how to ride the new wave of innovation that is vital for today’s technology leaders.

The conference kicked off Oct. 4 and runs through Oct. 8. During those five days, Gartner is touching on a range of topics, from digital business to people-centric security. But the hottest topic always seems to be data. In the past, the chatter was about capturing and ingesting data. But this year, Gartner shared a bold statement that seemed to resonate with attendees: “Data is inherently dumb. It does not actually do anything unless you know how to use it.”

That’s one of the chief takeaways from this year’s event. Kicking off the 2015 show, Gartner SVP Peter Sondergaard said that the growing adoption of devices is creating billions of new relationships. However, these relationships are not being driven by data, but algorithms. “Algorithms are where the real value lies,” he explained. “Algorithms define action. Dynamic algorithms are the core of new customer interactions.”

Data is inherently dumb. It does not actually do anything unless you know how to use it.
Peter Sondergaard, SVP, Gartner

What Sondergaard is hinting at is that more than ever before, you need to understand how to use data in smart, progressive ways – not simply worry about bringing in data because you can. Big data must be put into perspective. It’s a sentiment that was echoed during Dr. Anthony Scriffignano’s afternoon speaking engagement yesterday. Dun & Bradstreet’s Chief Data Scientist addressed a jam-packed room of attendees and explained that turning data into real business insights takes a methodical approach. And like the algorithms Sondergaard mentioned, Scriffignano said we must employ a systematic process to create clarity from chaos and that will ultimately be driven by collaboration across the enterprise.

In order to do this, you must break down data silos and connect disparate databases to form relationships. This is not an easy process, explained Scriffignano, but one that is imperative to extracting real value out of data.

The combination of internal data with external sources enables a complete view of any business entity – therefore enabling companies to be better informed and make more insightful business decisions. This leads to the foundation of what Scriffignano called a Relationship Data Platform. While not an algorithm per say, it is how a company can align and manage disparate data sources, and it ties back to the theme of this year’s event: the need to invest in innovation.

During Scriffignano’s presentation, a graphic artist recorded the most pertinent thoughts from the session. As you’ll see above, the road to uncovering true business insights starts with identifying the right data and understanding how to capture, process, and analyze it. This is a meticulous process that involves matching, linking, appending data across the enterprise to create clarity from chaos.

“Each of you are the steward of your company’s infrastructure, and the applications that run across your organization,” Scriffignano said to the attendees in his session. “Often you don’t have complete control of all applications and databases, but one thing is certain: As technology leaders, you have the responsibility and opportunity to take the lead and break down the siloed thinking across the organization. An enterprise-wide strategy supports every business function, product line and geography and provides the company the greatest opportunity for growth.”