A River Runs through IT – like data like water
Think of data like a river. In fact, data is very much like a river. There is the most impressive river on the planet, the Amazon, and then there are babbling brooks with everything in between. Rivers can guide and carry their cargo to lower levels. Data flows through an organization much like water flows through the landscape. It starts with small droplets of data
collected from hundreds of sources and swells quickly into a torrent of information that will seek the path of least resistance, even if it means becoming stagnant.
When the landscape is expansive and flat with no barriers, data will spread far and wide, meandering very slowly, somewhat like the salt marshes of the Everglades in lower Florida, where water slowly moves toward the sea. Things change imperceptively and patterns of flow are hard to discern. In other situations where the terrain is more like the Snake River in Washington, water rushes through narrow channels, churning violently to lower ground, and ultimately to the sea, which past 200 miles out, can be thought of as the public domain. You don’t pay for fish caught in international waters and you don’t pay for data generally available to the public. But by the time it reaches that point, whatever unique characteristics of that water (data) existed in the past are diluted and difficult to determine. Prospectors panning for gold in mountain streams swear that by the time the stream widens into a river, the gold nuggets are gone.
Smart organizations know when data should move fast and when data should move slowly. When you want water to move faster, straight channels are dug into the landscape to divert the flow in the right direction. When needs dictate, it accelerates and serves up information real time. Other times, it moves slowly and is persistent and perhaps the users change more frequently than the data. Then again, it might settle into pools for more detailed analysis of the content. Data warehouses come to mind.
Making intelligent and coherent decisions based on the long view is a challenge for most organizations. With exploding technology innovations like in-memory, 3-D visualizations, self-service analytics, not to mention predictive analytics and other similar technologies, the possibilities are endless. So dig your data channels straight and deep, allowing infomation to flow to the right users at the right time.