Data is the fuel we use to make decisions. It records the history of enterprise activities. It is used to drive processes of all sorts. It is used to make important decisions. We maintain and use data as individuals. We maintain and use data as corporations, governmental organizations, educational institutions, and virtually any other organization.
Many large organizations are nothing but data processing engines. Insurance companies, banks, financial services companies, and the IRS are all organizations that live in a sea of data. Most of what they do is process data.
Think about companies that process credit card transactions. What products do they produce and sell? Just information products. They process tons of data every day. Take their information systems away and there is nothing left.
Other organizations may appear to be less involved with information systems because their products or activities are not information specific. However, looking under the covers you see that most of their activities and decisions are driven or guided by information systems.
Manufacturing organizations produce and ship products. However, data drives the processes of material acquisition, manufacturing work flow, shipping, and billing. Most of these companies would come to a resounding halt if their information systems stopped working. To be a profitable manufacturing company today you need highly tuned information systems for just-in-time parts delivery, effective purchasing systems for adjusting what you produce to ever-changing demand, highly accurate cost accounting systems, applications for the care and feeding of customers, and much more. Those with poor information systems fall behind competitively, and many fall out of business.
The most successful companies are not always those with the best products. Companies must recognize that they must sell what is profitable and drop products that are not. Profitability requires knowledge of the supply chain; knowledge of past, present, and future buying patterns; marketing costs; and sales costs. Consolidation of data from many different systems is required to make the right profit decisions.
Retail operations depend completely on information systems to keep them profitable. They must have the latest technology for highly efficient supply chain management. If not, their competitors will lower prices and force the inefficient information processors out of business. Many are now moving to customer relationship management systems in order to gain an even better competitive position.
Data is becoming more precious all the time. Enterprises are using data more and more to help them make important decisions. These can be daily, routine decisions or long-term strategic decisions. New trends in data warehousing, data mining, decision support, and customer relationship management systems all highlight the ever-expanding role data plays in our organizations.
Data gets more valuable all the time, as additional ways are found to employ it to make our organizations more successful.