It's The Data Stupid
I don't know if I owe James Carville a royalty for using ths title, but i think the analogy works.
In IT these days, its the data that matters. The hardware, software, communications equipment, and management systems are still important, but they are getting commoditized, standardized, and in many cases outsourced.
But data is becoming more important every day. Think about it. If you have one piece of data about a particular situation that's good. If you have two pieces of data, that's a lot better. If you can get to three, then that's a gold mine.
Think about the way Google ranks search results. They don't just crawl the web and find pages that meet the seach criteria, they also look at the links to each of those pages and create a second data element, which is the popularity of those pages. The combination of the two data sets creates the results that makes Google the best search engine on the web.
Think about checking into a flight at an airport kiosk. The airline's computer system has your ticket in the system. But combining that record with the record in your credit card company's computer system creates the link that lets you bypass the long lines and get to your flight much faster and with less hassle. Take a look at this article in Friday's Wall Street Journal that discusses how technologies like this and others have had a huge effect on our economy's productivity over the past several years.
I think that data is the next revolution in IT. Because data does not have decreasing marginal returns. It has increasing marginal returns. The more you invest in data, the more you get out. But its non-linear. It's exponential. And that's exciting stuff.