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Roadkill – How To Avoid Being Crushed By Data

By Richard Sharpe | 01/22/2015 | 7:47 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

Imagine that you are having a dream that is quickly turning into a nightmare.  You find yourself standing in the middle of a newly constructed super highway.  You are amazed at the vast number of lanes on both sides of this man made structure.  You have been told that you are there to find out how drivers are performing on these lanes with accurate measurements and to report back meaningful insights.  To do this, you are to utilize your computer, camera and a smart phone.



As you stand there trying to get your bearings, you notice the following:

  • the volume of the cars moving in each direction is significantly increasing over time
  • cars are entering from a variety of new entry points
  • the speed of the cars is exponentially increasing to a point that what you are seeing is turning into a blur

You feel helpless using the tools that you have been given and cannot see how to possibly do your job.  In fact, you realize that if you are not careful, you could become so confused that you could put yourself in harms way and become a roadkill casualty!

Sound silly?  I am sure it does but replace the road lanes with data streams coming from a growing number of sources and at an ever increasing rate of speed.  Add the pressure of a rapidly changing commercial environment and the need to gain meaningful insights to stay ahead of the competition or to be left behind in the commercial dust.   It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination.

Recently, I watched an interview of Thomas Malone, from the MIT Sloan School of Management on DCV-TV. The interview concerned his prediction 25 years ago on the emerging role of e-commerce.  


Mr. Malone made several interesting observations about how successful organizations will operate and win using ever increasing amounts of data:

  • by harnessing the power a collaborative approach between man & machine where both contribute and learn from the work of the other (“collective intelligence”)
  • by creating an environment to empower the individual to use data and computing power to solve critical business needs (e.g. Google and eBay)

These are directly applicable to any company’s strategy in getting the full benefit of the ever increasing volume and speed of data and to obtain a competitive advantage over your competition. 

Let’s build on Mr. Malone’s thoughts and go back to our analogy of not being “roadkill” on your data super highway.  How many of the following are true for your organization?  

  • You have cross-functional consensus on the value of measuring specific areas of performance
  • You have a technology platform provides one “One Version of the Truth” of information captured from ever increasing sources and volumes of data
  • You have created a user environment that empowers individuals to continually gain insights by applying their creative skills in addition to taking advantage of advanced computing correlations and learnings (“collective intelligence”)
  • You have recognized that your approach must be scalable and repeatable for sustained value
  • You periodically highlight to the organization the value that has been gained by the effort

The world today is full of examples where relatively young companies are outpacing traditional competitors in multiple industries by changing the game of how to win market share. 

I read recently that certain state Department of Transportation organizations are experimenting with recycling roadkill into compost as a cost savings initiative (click here for article).

Companies that take on the challenge of mastering their data and empowering individuals with various forms of intelligent analytics will not need to worry about being someone else’s compost. For everyone else, there are no guarantees.  Like Mr. Malone said, just look at Google and eBay!

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments. 

All the best, Richard 



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe is CEO of Competitive Insights, LLC (CI), a founding officer of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) and designated by DC Velocity as a Rainmaker in the industry. For the last 25 years, Richard has been passionate about driving business value through the adoption of process and technology innovations. His current focus is to support CI's mission to enable companies to gain maximum value through specific, precise and actionable insights across the organization for smarter growth. CI delivers Enterprise Profit Insights (EPI) solutions that enable cross-functional users to increase and protect profitability. Prior to his current role, Richard was President of CAPS Logistics, the forerunner of supply chain optimization. Richard is a frequent speaker at national conferences and leading academic institutions. His current focus is to challenge executives to improve their company's competitive position by turning enterprise wide data from a liability to an asset through the use of applied business analytics.


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