For some reason, people seem to think that the idea of data creating business value is new. However, this is most certainly not true. What is new, is the use of data as the basis of competition.

For the most part, business has always used data; in the sense that they gather information to use as insight to make decisions. But our expectations for the data itself, and what it can offer us are growing and growing. Our demand for deep knowledge is only continuing to grow and grow.

For a long time, the only data a business could gather was data within the business (or external data in the form of surveys). But as our demand for knowledge and insight from data grows, we are turning to new sources to give us data. This is precisely why businesses began using unstructured data (from social media, the web etc.).

Today, the companies leading the change include a wide variety of data in their analysis. This includes: machine data, unstructured data, and online and mobile data to supplement the data within their organization. This allows them to base their decisions, not just on historical data, but on predictive analytics, promoting forward-thinking.

We can only expect this trend to grow. Big Data will fundamentally change the way businesses operate, and compete with one another. Big Data is the new competitive advantage.

The companies that embrace this change, and invest in a forward-thinking data strategy will have a distinct advantage over their competitors. As more and more data is generated and analyzed, this performance gap will only continue to grow. Soon enough, every company in existence will have a well developed data strategy; or they will fail.

But there is one thing holding us back: our technical ability to aggregate and analyze the data. Because we are capturing so much data, and from so many disparate sources, we are having a difficult time keeping up! Tools have been created to help us with this, but most thus far are not living up to our expectations. It is very likely that we will never be able to develop a tool that is able to analyze data as well as we would like. It’s simple; computers are simply not as good at seeing patterns as humans are.

Whether we develop a tool, or not, in the meantime, we do have the skills and human capital to accomplish the difficult task of aggregating and analyzing data. While many companies cannot afford a team of data scientists, this is a skill and service that can be hired.

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