“Dear Hadrian - we are running low on Chianti in Londinium”.

Back in 122 AD it was much easier to monitor and share information. For one thing, there just wasn’t that much of it. Even managing a city in a far-flung corner of the Roman Empire didn’t require much data collection, transfer or analysis. That was true for centuries, but in the last 100 years things have certainly changed.

As a bit of an amateur historian, I like to keep in mind where we are in the arc of history. Not only do I find it fascinating from a social standpoint, but it also provides perspective for the business and technology challenges that companies face today. Taking a long view helps me stay focused during those times when I am head down in code, making sure that customers are happy and that we are demonstrating thought leadership in the marketplace.

The Data Explosion

As we all know, data is being generated today at a ridiculous rate. A recent study by Forbes revealed that in the past two years alone we have created more data than was generated in the entire history of human civilization. And the rate and pace is increasing exponentially. Driven by the global penetration of technology, research states that by 2020, there will be about 1.7 megabytes of new information created every second for every person on the planet.

The start of this data deluge can be traced back to the earliest days of the Internet – when computers first starting talking to each other, having digital conversations between themselves using ones and zeros. This represented a sea change (to say the least) in how companies managed their process and built successful business models based on this increased level of accessibility to data.

And it is only going to get crazier! The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve and expand with sensors and actuators being incorporated into all sorts of previously unconnected objects. As cars, appliances, clothing, food stuffs, buildings and a zillion other things that we can only imagine all get IP addresses and start joining the network, the amount of data that is going to be generated will be staggering. It will make the information management challenges we are dealing with in 2016 look like the problems faced by the Roman Empire back in the first century.

That’s not especially reassuring to data management professionals who already feel like they’re standing on the beach with a sword trying to hold back the ocean.

Turning endless piles of data into timely, actionable information needs to be top of mind on both business and IT agendas. This also has implications for related business processes as well as the tools used assure strategic information management in the enterprise. This is really what information management is all about.

According to a recent report from Forbes and SAP, data-related problems cost the majority of companies an average of more than $5 million annually, and a fifth of these companies estimated losses in excess of $20 million per year. The report also suggested that the information management conversation now needs to be elevated beyond just IT so that CIOs and their managers are thinking more strategically about the benefits to the lines of business.

The time to focus on information management is now.

My team and I have visibility into a rich landscape of data across our development processes through our marketing and sales efforts, out to our supply chain, and of course the most valuable source: customer information.

While it seemed a bit overwhelming at first, today we look at this cross-functional data as a treasure trove. We proactively mine this information to gain visibility into previously unidentified synergies. We are finding opportunities for business process enhancement and other broader improvements.

Another other exciting development is the wide range of solutions emerging to help with data analysis and rationalization. Several companies are already experimenting with cutting-edge tools and technologies that use artificial intelligence, advanced predictive analytics, and even 3D data visualizations that leverage augmented reality.

And don’t look now, but the army of bots is coming. These self-aware algorithms are going to take the power of information management to an entirely new level. Imagine designing a bot that could go into your supply chain and collect longitudinal data about trending in operational costs based on geographical or seasonal criteria, or even levels of adoption or implementation by customers. The next evolution of information management will use machine learning processes that allow bots to train other bots. It will make today’s information management processes seem downright ancient.

On a personal level, I am very excited about what’s next in information management. There are tremendous opportunities for a next generation of innovative solutions. New models being developed will improve how and where information is collected and continue to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. All of this is just over the horizon, and we need to be ready for it. And I don’t even have to learn Latin to do it!

(About the author: Brian Starr is senior vice president of technology solutions at Rocket Software, where he leads development of storage, networks, and compliance products. He also acts as vice president, IBM Tivoli Partnership for Rocket. Brian is based on Denver and holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Ohio State University.)