A few weeks ago I had the chance to catch up with Amazon.com chief technology officer Dr Werner Vogels. I first met Werner two years ago when Amazon.com was making overtures to Australia’s internet start-up community.
This time around represented an opportunity for me to learn more about how Amazon’s retail operations make use of data. The whole company is essentially a data company – Werner describes it as a technology company that happens to do retail. The company doesn’t make a decision without data, and when it does make a decision it watches the response in terms of changing data patterns and decides whether to stick with that decision or do something else.
It is a model that is the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of data usage maturity, but still holds lessons for all companies. In recent presentations I’ve been describing how all companies are essentially data companies, and that it is how well organisations collect, manage and utilise data that will set them apart into the future. If your business has customers, then you can be guaranteed that your customers generate data. But for most businesses, that data is never collected, let alone put to use.