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Today marks the start of Global Directions, an annual industry technology and educational conference. This year's theme caught our attention. Forget big data or smart data. There's no denying that the fire hose of data is flowing quicker than ever. So it's appropriate that Global Directions is focused on "fast data."

Discipling Your Data

While we'll be bringing you live updates from this year's conference, we wanted to take a closer look at how big data is helping us all work better, smarter, faster. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Fox, director and Azure evangelist at Microsoft. Fox will speaking about Microsoft and The Modern Business Application, but I wanted to learn more about what it takes to harness the power of data, whether it's big, smart or fast.

Fox says that you can have great tools for containing data, but it's easy to get lost in the implementation. In order to pivot data in the way, you need to plan for the future and regular streams of data. That is to say, data is not fleeting. It's not something you do only once. It's constant and it can influence and evolve business strategies.

To effectively manage all this data requires discipline. Do most businesses have the discipline needed? According to Fox, it depends on the company's goals, the mentality behind their software decisions, and how big data is interpreted. Not every business is set up correctly. For Fox, it isn't a matter of having enough data scientists; it's about having the discipline and governance to help focus a company's efforts and infrastructure.

Bigger, Smarter, Faster?

When it comes to fast data, Fox says that it's not that data is no longer big or smart, it's that it's essential to make quicker decisions. However, it's even more important to have the right data. The right data is what helps make smarter decisions, faster. The right data will improve the lives of your customers, as well as your employees.

For your employees, marrying big data and the modern application is important. Companies must ask themselves what that looks like. It could be a discrete app that has specialized functionality or it could be a company-wide app that helps connect teams. Whatever they develop, it's essential that it be easy to manage and evolve as user behaviors change and new technologies influence how people work. Employing an agile infrastructure ensures that companies can pivot faster, break down old models and build new ones to respond to new trends and behaviors. Furthermore, Fox says that BYOD should be used to help companies learn what they can do with a variety of mobile devices to maximize utility, productivity and make them more interesting.

There is no doubt that data is making businesses smarter. It's making it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to redirect information and messaging more quickly, while larger enterprises are learning to plan for the future more strategically. In the end, it's not about having bigger data or faster data, it's having the means to make data work for you. 

Image credit: Shutterstock / Liushengfilm