Why Data Matters: Context Reveals Answers

When can a piece of data provide information that matters? IBM expert Jeff Jonas explains how context involves taking each transaction, deciding where it fits, and analyzing its surroundings in order to draw insight.

IBMer Jeff Jonas: The word context gets throw around a lot, but when I say, context, its looking at the things around something to better understand the thing. The question is: How can organizations do that in real time, as fast as they learn something? It’s at that moment, if the organization wants to be really responsible and really competitive, they’re going to say, Now that I learned this, how does it relate to what I know? Now does that matter and if so to who? One of the things that organizations have historically been doing is they take the transactions that happens, the piece of data that just happened in the enterprise, which is like a puzzle piece, its like a pixel, and they try to make a decision about whether it’s good or bad by staring at the single puzzle piece. Well, there’s a real limit to how smart you can be by staring at individual transactions. Contrast that with this notion of accumulating context. You get the next piece of data that happens in the enterprise, and you look at the puzzle and you look at the rest of the data, and now you figure out where it belongs. Sometimes the puzzle piece maybe connects two chucks of the puzzle that you hadn’t anticipated. And it’s only after you figure out where the puzzle piece goes and you can see the context, the surrounding things around it. That then is your best opportunity to say, Have I learned something that matters? So if you’re in public safety you might be finding something that’s a risk to the population. And if you’re a bank or insurance company maybe it’s helping you really better understand your customer.

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