My day to day working rhythm normally consists out of quite a lot of talking to CIO’s, Information Managers, Senior IT Executives and others that try to find their way in our quickly developing, disruptively changing and always innovating ICT landscapes. And to be quite honest, most of them try to engage on a more abstract level, by at least trying to formulate a form of vision or even strategy to guide them on that way.
During those conversations, quite a lot of time spent talking about data related issues. Everybody seems to be convinced that the world is heading to data driven architectures. That it is really important to use your data effectively. And that there is lots of value in ‘owning’ data, even if you have no use case momentarily. And then they make a common claim, especially the more ‘dramatic’ characters amongst them: ‘Data is the new oil!’ Or: ‘If Dallas would still be a running series on television, JR would be the CEO of Google or AWS.’
The ground for making this kind of claims seems obvious. Oil, or ‘black gold’ has been the symbol for wealth and riches for over a decade. Just think about the grandeur of the cities in the middle east. Wars have been fought over control and supply of oil. And even in a rather down-to-earth country as The Netherlands, the name Royal Shell evokes more emotion than any other big Dutch enterprise.
But apart from the idea that data might be just as valuable as oil, are there any other similarities between these, at first sight, so differing things? Actually, there is and even more, the process of searching for it, finding it, getting to it and storing it is almost the same….
Looking at the above-mentioned processes regarding searching, finding, reaching, extracting and storing oil, you can find enough explanation and clarification on the internet, for instance here: https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-drilling2.htm
I argue that oil and data and the processes involved are very similar on an abstract level. I’ll try to explain the similarities in comparison to the processes for searching, finding, reaching, extracting and storing data.
Let’s start at the beginning: Where the world supply of natural resources (oil and gas) was formed millions of years ago and is limited to what we have today, our worldwide resources regarding data are growing every second in a pace that is beyond comprehensible scales. What they have in common is that most companies admit that while they are aware of the existence of these resources, the majority of companies actually don’t know where these resources are exactly located. Where especially geographical circumstances (like layers of granite, instable undergrounds, water, etc.) can be very obstructive in the process of finding oil, we see similar scenarios in ICT. Old Mainframe environments, monoliths, old storage media and all other kinds of legacy can make it very difficult to find data. But also the way it’s left in the IT environment, structured or non-structured, enriched with metadata or not, deep in a public cloud or on-premises, in very cold storage environments or burning hot, can obstruct the process of finding and reaching this data.
However, over the past decade successful new technologies like iPaaS and Big Data applications have delivered a fine and powerful toolset to find these resources, that Gartner referred to as ‘dark data’, probably counting for more than 70% of all available data (at least today😉).
And then, after sacrificing blood, sweat and tears to find your data, the moment comes to connect to it and extract it from the dark places it resides. Ever tried to drill a hole through granite plates at 1,5 km depth? Neither have I, but it must feel a little bit like knowing there is something very valuable hidden in your legacy monolithically system and having no idea how to reach it? You know it’s there, but you have no idea to get it out of there. It is actually why they invented RPA (screen scraping 2.0). If a monitor can show the data, but you can’t reach it yourself, let’s copy it from the monitor.
An iPaaS is probably the best way nowadays to drill for data. As the current iPaaS contains almost every connector, protocol, standard ever developed or at least have the feature to support them and most iPaaS’s are low code, meaning you don’t need deep technical development skills to build integrations, it means you have a powerful platform to get to any data and get it to the surface.
Which brings us to the last similarity between data and oil. If you finally brought it to the surface you’re stuck with an intrinsically worthless product. You cannot eat or drink it, cannot build with it and even as fuel it is worthless: raw oil is not so easy to light!
This means that the largest part of value creation is done after it has been brought to the surface. We refine it to make all kinds of fuels to fly, drive, heat our houses and cook our meals. We transform it into the uncountable forms of plastic that ease our lives nowadays. And there are hundreds of fine applications that bring out the high value of oil.
It is the same with data. Older and newer technologies use this raw product to transform it into information that makes our industries grow. That supports our medical professionals in finding new, better ways of medical treatment or inventing new vaccines to stop pandemics. To bring artificial intelligence into our day-to-day lives and improve it to a level our grandparents could never imagine.
It seems that the value leap is like oil, happening after it has been brought to the surface. But that’s only half of the story. If you are not able to find, reach and extract your data from the places where it resides, there is no value for you in the second half.
And opposite to oil, that you can buy on the marketspace to start your value creation process, if you want to be successful in value creation based on data, your ability to get to your data and extract is a pre-requisite. It is almost impossible to enter the marketspace with for instance an e-commerce offering if you do not have this process fully under control.
So, if you want to start drilling for data, or improve your drilling process, to be able to concentrate on value creation, you need an enterprise low-code iPaaS. You can always reach out and invite me for a conversation. To use former president Obama’s words: That is what I do. 😉
By Bart Buschmann, Commercial Manager @ eMagiz