Data Visionaries Wanted!

I saw this slide the other day presented by one of our Chief Architects, he was discussing how the relative importance of Infrastructure, Applications and Data has changed over time and how this will continue to change into the future, it made me realise very clearly that as the bubbles grow and shrink so does the importance of the conversation.

Generational Shift in Data Value and Management Over Time

While the phases are not distinct, this process and trend are absolutely correct.

Infrastructure Phase

Back in the days of Infrastructure it was great to discuss Infrastructure and there were plenty of people willing to hear about your sprocket and how it was better than the next persons widget; ours is faster, larger, has more ports, more features.

As this phase declined, it took with it many companies that didn’t make the transition to the new conversation. Companies we assumed would  be around for a long time.

But I guess when you’ve had a solid business for years, accepting change and trying to get the people inside your organisation to change is difficult. Some companies made the transition and changed, but many didn’t.

Application Phase

The next phase was about applications and how they created better value for our organisations and did it significantly faster. Some of these applications we wanted to run ourselves, while others were much better being delivered to us as a service.  This allowed us to focus on how to run and manage our business and to find new revenue opportunities and for the stuff you keep? oh yea you’ll need something to run it on.

Data Phase
As we move forward, the discussion is increasingly about Data. What data do we have, what new data should we collect, where can we collect data from, how do we use data to create new value based upon it.

We still are in discussion about the applications that will enable us to do this, and our infrastructure conversation now includes the cloud. But as the conversation has shifted, our needs have shifted as well. We need solutions that are simpler. We need to find ways to run things with far fewer people. Because it all comes back to focusing our efforts toward creating new ways to deliver compelling services to our customers

So how does this play out?

Let’s take something simple such as navigation, I’m sure many of you reading this will remember having your road atlas in the car, one of the tools of the trade for the road warrior.

Then we saw the move toward digital navigation, These were websites that would plot the optimum route for us that we would print out and have lying on the floor of our cars for weeks.

As we saw the development of web and mobile Navigation and we saw the rise of companies providing little custom GPS units that we stuck to the windscreens of our cars. They were selling infrastructure and applications and look at what’s happened to their business models. Why would you buy a GPS when it’s now either built into your car, or you can simply install an app on your phone.

The companies that could provide the maps with the best and quickest updates had a jump on their competitors.

Step in the Data Visionaries. This movement has led to applications being delivered in entirely new ways, with data coming from not hundreds of sources but in realtime from hundreds of thousands of people using the application.

If you’re in a traffic jam, tell the app and everyone is now aware of it, Accident? tell the app. The number of applications required to support this model is huge and the quantity of data being provided in real time is staggering.

This truly is a significant move toward what it means to be digital. And in order for your company to make this move you have to simplify and modernise what you have. You also have to consider how far into the Cloud you want to go. The Cloud provides the means to get the resources you need to be able to progress.

And you have to consider how to build a Next Generation Data Centre that uses technology designed to support thousands of applications, and capable of collecting millions of data points. Which enables you to focus on the business outcomes you want to create from data.

It’s this future that has driven the evolution of NetApp

Data Visionaries are wanted and needed to support Digital Transformation and to enable the full potential of what companies need to become for the future.


  1. Great article. So we are all now simply the sum of our datapoints. Which datapoints need to be accessed to initiate and complete a sales transaction? Does data age well? Does my age become a stream of datapoints to be monitored by the supreme cloud master? No wonder kids play so many games. Again, great article. And although this 64 year old, married, Christian, conservative, US Army Veteran who has survived congestive heart failure and subscribes to several social media may not have understood everything you’ve written, rest assured that your datapoints have found a new home in my cloud. (Whatever that means.)

    1. Steve, thank you for your reply, your comments and for serving your country. I cannot imagine what it’s like to lived the life you have but, I’m delighted that you not only read my post but also took the time to comment. The world is changing at a pace that is truly hard to comprehend, decisions about the data we will and won’t share is becoming increasingly challenging. I’ve decided that I can’t worry about it too much, although I appreciate why others do. If our data can be used to make the world a better place, can save life’s or cure diseases then I’m okay with it.

      Thanks again Matt

  2. Hello Matt,
    I am an educator in a midwestern high school. When I meet someone new and we get to this part of the conversation, they often ask me, “what do you teach?” To which I always think and sometimes respond, “I teach students.” I answer this way, not to be obtuse, but to emphasize the importance of a right philosophy of education. I believe that teaching and learning has more to do with relationships.
    I am intrigued by the concept of a data visionary and interested in how data could be used to influence and direct students to make healthier choices – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Are you aware of any work being done along these lines?
    Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Fred
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, there have been a lot of papers and books written around Data based decision making in Education, but from my cursory research in this area many of these seem to be more related to how Educators and Teachers can use data about, and relating to, their students in order to make decisions about actions to take in order to help students along the path. How do you really identify what is and isn’t working across the school spectrum rather than just in one classroom or school, how do you narrow down to understanding if there are particular students or groups that respond better to different types of teaching methods and how do you see whether, if you make changes, that these changes actually work?

      I’ve not really seen as much around the aspects that you raise for healthier choices, but now that you’ve raised this with me you’ve got me intrigued, so it’s something I’ll look into. If I find some examples that I think you would also find of interest then I’ll be sure to let you know, likewise if you come across research in this area then please do share it with me.

      Thanks and regards

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