Imagine this. You receive a notification that the nuclear power plant you work in is about to explode. You’re in the plant’s breakroom—dead center in the building. Isn’t it a little too late to receive this news?

Chances are, you don’t work in a nuclear power plant. And chances are, you’ll never have to experience one exploding. Great news.

But you do run the risk of something else in your life or business going wrong. Way wrong.

In your company, you may be discussing the importance of real-time data. After all, it’s a hot topic right now. What if I told you that real-time data can create a false sense of security?

Well, that’s because the real-time data you’re basing your decisions on may be information you receive a little too late.

Now I’m going to share an example with you. It may sound extreme, but it actually happened to someone close to me. In fact, it was my daughter.

When she was 16, she got her first car—a used PT Cruiser. She, of course, wanted to take it on a freeway trip. I warned her to check the oil because it may have an oil leak.

“There has to be plenty of oil in the car,” I told her.

“I got this, Dad,” she told me. “I’ll be fine on the freeway. I got everything.”

So, she’s driving down the road, on the freeway, and the sensor comes alerting her that her engine oil is low.

This is real-time data.

My daughter is in the act of something, and a new insight comes across to inform her of an important change. This information is valuable when we have plenty of time to react. Thirty seconds after seeing the sensor light, her engine blew up.

The sensor worked in real time.

It performed as a real-time notification should have, but did it give value to the driver to avoid the disaster?


It wasn’t valuable in that moment because by the time it came on, the engine was already in dangerous territory and nothing she could have done would have changed the circumstances of the engine’s destruction.

This is the same thing that happens in business. People talk about real time, and how important it is, but oftentimes, real time is too late. Like a refrigerator truck whose temperature dips below the mandatory degree for a period of time, requiring the trucking company to chuck the food. Businesses that only use real-time tools might find their insights are rotten when they go to implement change.

So how valuable is real-time data?

The idea that most people and organizations have is that data can be processed within seconds and provided nearly immediately.

And it seems like this can present an awesome opportunity for satisfying customers, meeting goals, and determining where to go next. But the truth is, the pace of innovation is so fast that simply reporting on what happens is not of value in every circumstance. In fact, it is getting more difficult to anticipate the moves of consumers, and this is where the true value in analytics and insights rests.

Reporting on what happens is a lot like sitting in a presentation and listening to a speaker who literally reads from the PowerPoint slides.

You think, “Where is the insight? I can read the slides on my own. Tell me what you want me to get from them!”

The key in this digital world is foretelling what will happen, and getting ahead of the trends and revolutions in the industry, so that you can put insights to work for you.

If you are going to transition from being reactive to being proactive, there are four core things that you need to master. I’ll share the first of four in my next blog: How Can You Master the Past to Own the Future?


Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services