The problem is that the process of being in business now produces an enormous quantity of data, which if mined appropriately, can lead to interesting insights. And the real rub is that if you don't mine that data, your competitor will. Thus, the big data opportunity becomes irresistable.
I like to think in terms of things that I know. Like my car. I drive a 2014 Chevy Volt, an electric car in other words. This car gets around 127 mpg, and it reports that to me every time I start it up or shut it down.
But that's just the beginning of the data that this car churns out. It's a computing platform after all. The thing is completely digital. It is true drive-by-wire. All of the controls are simply digital controllers for the software that runs the car. And it has sensors galore. 360 degree cameras, GPS, OnStar, you name it.
Now, the rub for GM is that there are several hundred thousand Chevy Volts running around in the world at this moment, and all of them are spawning data at a frightening rate. Try grabbing all of the data from just one of them!
But if GM can grab all of that data, what an opportunity. It is impossible to even predict the insights that GM might obtain from the data collected by several hundred thousand smart cars running around on the roads.
Tesla Model X
And the real rub for GM: There is an emerging car company called Tesla, which manufactures electric cars too. And Teslas are just as smart as Volts, if not smarter. You can be sure that Elon Musk is capturing the data from all of those Teslas, and doing something interesting with it.
Again, being in business (in this case the business of making electric cars) creates the opportunity to capture data from your customer's use of your product. Which if you don't exploit that opportunity, your competitor will. And the result eventually will be a marked competitive advantage.
This same analysis can be applied to any enterprise. All firms of any significant size now face the challenge of either building or acquiring access to a big data reservoir (so-called data lake), and beginning to explore the use of that data. Eventually, this will simply become required in order to be in business.