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Are You the Perfect Pumpkin?

Dec. 19, 2013
Do you know why you lost those last four deals, and what you could have done to recapture those customers? Or where your next big customer is going to pop up? It’s in the data, folks, growing and changing just like that endless pumpkin field.

More devices breed more data, which breeds more actionable business intelligence.

For manufacturing and supply management, that means demand sensing, risk analysis and catastrophe avoidance, as well as learning all about your current and potential customers—what colors they like, how long they take to make a buying decision, what their affiliations are, all the magical unknowns that will determine if your company is number one or number 100 in your marketplace.

Boston-based Mike Opal, Microsoft (IW 500/16) Azure Cloud Evangelist, likens what we are seeing in the world of information technology to the "Perfect Storm," the 1991 "No Name" storm in which the convergence of several weather events unleashed 30-foot walls of sea water and hurricane force winds on unsuspecting fishermen and inhabitants of the New England coast.

"In terms of devices, we'll have 50 billion by 2020 and data will go from 0.8 zettabytes in 2009 to 35 zettabytes in 2020—that is insane," he explained. "The 0.8 ZB in 2009 is all of the data created by mankind since the first written word. And that will increase 44 times by 2020."

That is certainly more than computer pioneers Ken Olsen and Gordon Moore envisioned.

With the devices and the data growing exponentially, the data generators are getting more personal—they’re in our clothing, our cars, our appliances, and some parents stick GPS sensors on their kids’ backs!

Data is everywhere!

We've got refrigerators that send us to the store for milk refills; we've even got devices monitoring bovine nutrition farther up the food chain!

And what do we do with that?

What Makes You So Special?

For manufacturing, Opal sees this proliferation of data bringing some big changes ahead.

"The converging and explosive forces of devices, data and cloud are altering our long-accepted business models," he said.

The biggest change, he noted, is in the need to stand out in this vast, expanding sea of data. And to him, that comes down to one question: What makes you so special?

"Companies that fail to establish what makes them special and then build their business around it will be left behind," he said. "They will quickly become the next generation of abandoned New England mills.”

The Perfect Pumpkin

On Halloween weekend, Opal's son walked into a two-acre pumpkin field.

"Go ahead," said his Mom. "Pick one... pick a good one."

The boy looked over the field—there were bright orange pumpkins, there were small baby pumpkins, there were orange gourd-shaped pumpkins and pumpkins hidden by leaves and vines. There were tiny yellow pumpkin buds hoping to grow up before the first frost came, and there were some smashed and half-rotting pumpkins being gored by crows.

But the boy wasn't interested in any of those. He knew exactly what he wanted: his one, perfect pumpkin.

He walked directly and purposefully through the field, ignoring the thousands of pumpkins around him, and found exactly what he was looking for.

His perfect pumpkin, it turned out, was yellowish—not orange—and it bore a scaly black wart on one side. And it wasn't perfectly round, or big enough for a Jack-o-Lantern. But to the boy, this was The Perfect Pumpkin.

And that's the point.

Do you know what makes you so special?

Do you know why you lost those last four deals, and what you could have done to recapture those customers? Or where your next big customer is going to pop up?

It’s in the data, folks, growing and changing just like that endless pumpkin field.

Do you think it's being the lowest price in the mall? Or is there something else—is there something out there in the field that calls to your customers, that makes them pick your product, your idea, out of the all the low-cost offerings out there on the web?

Are you The Perfect Pumpkin?

Patricia E. Moody is the publisher of Blue Heron Journal, where she created the "Made In The Americas," the "Education for Innovation" and the "Paging Dr. Lean" series. Her next book about the future of manufacturing is "The Third Industrial Revolution.

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