Monday, 22 October 2012

We have a data dilema...but what are we doing about it?

In various newspapers today there are articles from or about Google and Oracle that, if believed have significant implications for us in the coming months, never mind years..... Google are talking about 'ubiquitous' devices that are always on, always around you and will be 'on hand' to answer questions that crop up in random conversation.... Did you get that? You and your mates will be having a conversation (heated discussion) about who really did score the winning goal in the 90 cup final when the ethereal voice of 'Gordon Google' interrupts simultaneously from about 15 devices and interjects with the answer! There's a good argument spoiled, now what to do?  Yes, I know that eventually one or more of us would say 'I'm going to google it' but that is our choice. The thought of some disembodied voice from the ether settling our cordial dispute and cutting short our reason for at least 3 more pints is not something that I find either attractive or desirable!

However, perhaps more seriously, there is also the article in the Times (Monday Oct 22, p31) from Mark Hurd, the President of Oracle, in which he states, 'Data is growing exponentially. This is causing big problems........' (he does add 'for our customers' as if Oracle customers are the only people being affected....) Nonetheless the figures and projections for the future runaway growth in the volume of data certainly point to significant challenges for all of us and not least of all those of us involved in public sector service
delivery. As the diagram shows (ignoring the figures that are so low as to be irrelevant for now)
Average traffic per month , Mb per device
There are three very notable devices where the growth in data is very significant:
Smartphones, Tablets and Laptops/Netbooks. These are of course the very devices about which there is so much discussion (thought little 'decision') in the public sector. What might this mean for us?

There is a certain irony in the thought that the very thing that only a few short years ago was going to liberate us, access to information, is already threatening to be the thing that ensnares us and has the potential to 'deliver' more inefficiencies and ineffective services than pretty much anything else at the present time.

It is great to be able to have a drink of water whenever I need one or indeed simply feel like one but if I was involuntarily submerged in large quantities of it for too long I would, quite literally be 'dead in the water'. There is the danger unless we learn very quickly how to manage, prioritise and interpret all this data that we will metaphorically drown in the stuff.

A few more facts and figures perhaps (thanks to The Times)... oops, more data....

By 2016:
The number of devices connected tot he internet is set to rise to
  • 3 times the global population (helped by my own personal tally of a laptop, a tablet ,2 smartphones and at least 2 M2M devices)
There will be:
  • 18 fold increase in mobile data traffic
  • 20,000 hours per second of video footage 'crossing' the internet
all of this before we even begin the discussion about how we begin the process of differentiating between data and knowledge and then applying knowledge to produce useful and relevant outcomes.....

For me all of this results in one statement and one question:

THE most important issue for those of us involved in the public sector (and other sectors actually) is that of data and information management (and security)

The question - who in your organisation bears responsibility for overseeing, driving, leading, managing (which ever verb you prefer) this maze and potential minefield?

If you do not have an identifiable, experienced, competent individual who has ownership of this agenda you will, probably sooner rather than later, fall foul and fail in some quite spectacular, though undesirable, ways. I'd call this role the CIO, but whatever you choose to call it please don't make the mistake of simply adding it onto the role of an already overworked bod who seems to fit the bill or is unlucky enough to be in the wrong meeting at the wrong time. That is not managing the process it is laying the sure foundations for a cock up!

Let's not get hung up on the title and let's not assume this is in any way an 'IT' or a 'technology' problem. It is a strategic issue that has an impact across the whole of an organisation although it is one in which a right understanding and implementation of INFORMATION technology can help you succeed.