THE BLOG
05/15/2013 06:29 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2013

Why Companies Should Love Their Data -- Unequivocally

Every day, news stories illustrate data's capacity to either damage or empower organizations. Data's yin and yang. Data failure, as in JPMorgan's recent four-hour website outage, inevitably frustrates customers and can take a bite out of a company's bottom line. Data's power, as in Formula 1 cars' 130 sensors offering real-time race data, offers a true competitive advantage.

These stories underscore how all outcomes, whether good or bad, are increasingly influenced by data. It's for this reason that companies should love their data. Data has changed the game. Now, a company's data infrastructure doesn't just support business, it is its business. And the integrity, performance, scalability, security, and availability of that infrastructure will determine that business' success.

Data's ability to empower organizations extends across industry lines. Formula 1 teams invest heavily -- sometimes up to $100 million -- to equip their cars with sensors that transmit live data to crews. That's a significant investment to shave one-tenth of a second from a single lap, but in a race built on precision, timing, and data, the difference between winning and fifth place can be just half a second.

Car performance is one thing, but that same F1 racing technology is now being used in children's hospitals to measure patients' vital statistics. The F1 Electronic Control Unit technology allows doctors to provide better care by detecting subtle changes in a child's health at more frequent intervals.

Most companies are aware of the transformational properties of data, so they're holding onto it, something we at Pythian like to call data hoarding. This happens partly because companies are able to -- storage costs have come way down -- but mostly because they realize that successful businesses are built on data. The potential insight and competitive advantage companies can derive from data mean that the more data companies have, the stronger they can become.

All companies depend on their data infrastructure to some extent, but not all systems are mission critical. How organizations value their data depends on the impact to their revenue, reputation, and customer service if one of their systems goes down for five minutes, half an hour, half a day. Some infrastructures can be unavailable for hours without having any impact on revenue or customer service, while others pose immediate risks. Take a customer of ours with a very sophisticated data infrastructure, for example. One of its systems alone drives $1 billion a year in online revenue. That's almost $1,800 per minute of lost revenue if that system became unavailable, without counting reputational damage and lost repeat business.

These are exciting times in data management, with breakthrough business capabilities and efficiencies, new ways to analyze trends, and fresh sources of data being created daily. And for the most part, data infrastructure costs are going down. Hardware is less expensive than it was years ago. Software licensing costs have stabilized, especially with the introduction of more open-source options. Operational costs are also trending downwards. The only thing going up is the cost of a mistake. So take care of your data, trust it to the right people, nurture it, protect it -- love it -- and see where it takes you.