By the Blouin News Technology staff

Big data: The next natural resource?

by in Enterprise Tech.

IBM CEO Virginia Marie 'Ginni' Rometty leaves the West Wing after attending a meeting with President Barack Obama and other business leaders at the White House November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC.

IBM CEO Virginia Marie ‘Ginni’ Rometty leaves the West Wing after attending a meeting with President Barack Obama and other business leaders at the White House November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

As data continues to grow at exponential rates around the world, businesses are challenged with not only the storage issues around big data, but also using it for analytical insight to gain a competitive edge. The vast seas of data being generated by cloud computing, mobility and social media will be the basis of competitive advantage for any organization — a point emphasized by Ginni Rometty, the first woman leader of global technology giant IBM while speaking at an event organized by the nonprofit Council on Foreign Relations on March 7. Rometty asserted that data will be the basis in what will be a so-called smarter era, branding this confluence of data as the “the next natural resource.”

“I’d like you to think of data as the next natural resource – the only limit is yourself, though; it’s not limited – the next natural resource that can be to our era what we think of – go back in time, and you think about steam, oil, electricity did to the industrial age” Rometty said. However, back then, just because you had access to those things did not make you a powerhouse. “And the same will be true here: Just because you – and that everywhere will have access, but what you do with it will make the difference,” Rometty remarked.

The statistics surrounding big data are astounding: 12+ billion terabytes of tweet data is created every day; 25 billion terabytes of Facebook log data is created every day; there are 4.6 billion camera phones worldwide; there are 76 million smart meters worldwide; and there were over two billion people on the Web by the end of 2011.

Leveraging the big data phenomenon, business decisions will be based not on “gut instinct, but on predictive analytics,” Rometty said.

“When it comes to decisions, they’ll be made on predictive analytics and data. When it comes to creating value, the social network will be a production line,” she explained. “And when it comes to delivering value, it will be the individual; it will not be a segment.”

Big data, along with cloud computing, are among the hottest tech buzzwords today. In fact, analyst firm Gartner predicts big data will drive $34 billion in IT spending this year. But Rometty believes data is more than a buzzword – it is the asset organizations need to capitalize on in order to succeed in the long term. The majority of new data is largely untagged file-based and unstructured data, which means little is known about it. Yet the fundamental challenge is not technology, she asserted.

“As always, the challenge is culture. But remember, this is at the end-all about competitive advantage, be this a company, a country or a government entity,” she said. “And in the end, I actually think something far more valuable will happen, because the greatest contribution of this shift will force every entity – private, public, government –  to actually become an authentic organization.”

If Rometty’s assertions are accurate, the ability to tap into the power of big data won’t be an option for businesses, it will be a necessity.