We’re starting to see that any company’s competitive advantage is increasingly determined by the quality of the data they have and how they’re using that data to make real-time decisions. This applies to not only humans making the decisions, but also to how they’re allowing the machines they have in their enterprise to make decisions. In other words, they’re deciding what decisions they want the machines to make versus what decisions they want humans to make, and they’re increasingly making those decisions based on actionable, high-quality, real-time big data.

Interestingly, what we call big data today is going to look puny two to three years from now, because the amount of data being created is growing exponentially. For example, governments, organizations, corporations, educational institutions, and the military are in the process of installing connected sensors to just about everything, from the concrete in streets, bridges, highways, and buildings, to cars, boats, and everyday products, just to name a few. In addition, we are connecting machines to machines on a massive, global scale, allowing them to carry out functions and make repairs all without human intervention. All of this is creating what could be called the Internet of Things. And, all of this means much, much more data!

Going forward, the type, quality, and relevance of the data will become far more important than the quantity of data, so being very good at managing these will create new ways to differentiate as well as find innovative approaches to creating and maintaining competitive advantage.

So with all of this data coming in, it’s clear that competitive advantage is going to be created by your use of data and by your ability to make sure you’re getting good data. After all, bad data yields bad decisions. You want to be able to draw the right conclusions from your data, as that’s what provides new opportunities, better solutions to problems, and new competitive advantage.

At this point you need to ask yourself a few questions, namely:

  • What kind of data do I need to get that will give me insights into the causes of problems and new opportunities?
  • What sensors could we install right now, wireless or wired, that would give us more real-time information so that we could, as humans, translate that data into actionable knowledge and wisdom in order to gain competitive advantage?
  • What machines might I want to connect, wirelessly or wired, so they can talk to each other and operate at a more intelligent level?
  • What decisions do I want my machines to make instantaneously in order for everything to run more efficiently and effectively—so the machines can solve problems before they happen and even before a human would notice it?

If you want to solve seemingly impossible problems and find new competitive advantage, you have to look at the type and quality of the data you’re generating and how you’re using it. When your data can empower your people and your machines to make better decisions faster, you’ll have increased competitive advantage.