I was recently at a Realcomm luncheon where Niraj Patel, Lending Platforms CIO for IBM, shared the idea that we must all re-learn our ABCDs –except not in that order. Now, you want to get a “D” before you achieve an “A”.  In this case, “A” is not better than “D”, because you must have “D” before you can have “A”. So, you’re probably thinking, “huh?” Let me explain …

Before you can have Artificial Intelligence or Blockchain or the Cloud, you must have Data. Data powers everything that comes after it, which is why we must re-learn our ABCDs to focus on data first.

Let’s break it down letter by letter to focus on why it is time to get re-acquainted with your ABCDs.

Artificial Intelligence

Big data is a huge driver, if not THE driver, of artificial intelligence. The searches done on Google provide real-time data to AI such as Siri and Cortana —or an autonomous driving car riding up and down the street knowing (after time) every crossing, stop light, or even —the local bar.

Without this data, AI robots, machine learning bots, or actual freestanding bots, would only have surface-level understandings of human’s requests. Data helps (if coded with the proper use cases) AI devices learn how humans think and feel and allows for the automation of data analysis. Just think –if your phone did not house the data it does, Siri would not be able to play your favorite song on Spotify without you naming the song. Simply, without data, AI cannot exist.


Blockchain technology has the ability to simplify data management. A blockchain is an encoded digital ledger that’s stored on multiple computers in a public or private network and comprises data records or “blocks.” Once these blocks of data are collected within a chain, they can’t be altered or deleted by one single user – they are verified and managed using automaton and shared governance protocols. Blockchains protect critical data and improve the management of this data in a free-flowing manner.

Once again, if it wasn’t all stored in one place, this would not be achievable.

The Cloud

The Cloud would be empty without data. Just think about all of the options we have for housing data in the cloud – Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. These cloud-driven products all house data on either private, public or private/public cloud networks. The Cloud allows for users to access files and data from anywhere at any time on any device, which enables businesses and team members to be more flexible and accomplish more without having to be chained to their desk.

This was the watershed moment where localized servers (which previously siloed information) turned into clouds, which enabled us to share the information  —and gave us the opportunity to create insights that were not visible before.

Why Data Matters … and Why it Needed to Be First

Data provides companies with the insight they need to improve the decisions they make. Having concise and clear data can help improve a company’s efficiency and employ great technology to help improve their overall business. Data isn’t very useful in its raw state, which is why it must be processed and analyzed —and de-siloed.

By focusing on data and the cloud, blockchain and artificial intelligence are finally leveling-up —where more insights and solutions can be brought to bear.

Throw out the old school thinking that “A” is better than “D”, because when it comes to technology, that simply isn’t true. Data must come before cloud, blockchain or artificial intelligence, and the data must be accurate in order to be used.

This will not replace your intuition —but it will give you the data and the real insights to take your intuition to the next level. With all the information in front of you, anything is possible.