Big Data

It’s About Economics! Data is the New Sun

Bill Schmarzo By Bill Schmarzo CTO, Dell EMC Services (aka “Dean of Big Data”) September 4, 2017

I’ve always felt that bringing an economics perspective to our big data and digital transformation discussions is more important than a traditional accounting or even information technology (IT) perspective. Heck, I believe that a Chief Data Officer’s background should be more along the lines of economics than IT.

Economics brings a forward-looking perspective on creating value (wealth). In fact, economics is defined as “the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer (capture) of wealth.”

It is this forward-looking perspective on the “production, consumption, and transfer (capture) of wealth” that should drive an organization’s digital transformation initiatives! And as an example of how digital transformation is exploiting economics, we need to look no further than what is happening in the automobile industry.

Economics of an Electric Vehicle

As an owner of a money pit, maintenance nightmare internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, I’m well aware of how much it costs me whenever I need to get my car serviced — replace a starter here, or fix an oil leak there, or replace an alternator here. Electric vehicles (EV), on the other hand, have fewer complicated, inter-related, expensive-to-fix parts. For example, the motor in an EV contains about half a dozen moving parts, as compared to the hundreds of working parts in an ICE.

Once you buy an EV, there are many maintenance costs that you can wave goodbye to. For example, say goodbye to costs associated with transmissions (manual or automatic). And the lack of a transmission means that clutches, pressure plates, bearings, transmission or gear oils are unnecessary. Other traditional maintenance costs that an EV avoids includes engine, cylinder heads, gaskets, clutches and gear box, spark / heater plugs and plug cords, air intake filter, catalytic converter, exhaust pipe and muffler, timing belts, gas tank, filters (oil, air, fuel), engine oil & lubricants, radiator, coolants and fluids, starters, alternator and thermostats, carburetor, distributor assembly, fuel injectors, fuel pumps and fuel lines, O2 sensors, belts, turbo chargers, engine mounts, clamps, holders or connectors, fog checks…you get my drift.

In the article “Ford Pushes Key Marketing Message for Electric Cars: Lower Maintenance Costs,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s Director of Electrification Programs and Engineering states: “When you have moving parts, such as the gears in a transmission or the pistons in an engine, you have maintenance. With an electric drive, there are very few moving parts. And in the Focus Electric, the only moving parts are the motor and the wheels.”

Over the life of the car, Focus Electric drivers also won’t need to spend time and money to:

  • Replace five air filters at a cost of $24.95 each
  • Have two cooling system flushes at a cost of $109 each
  • Get one transmission service, $179
  • Replace one drive belt for $130
  • Buy and install one new set of spark plugs for $69.95

The 3 most expensive auto repairs (“4 of the Most Expensive Car Problems”) are avoided with an EV:

#1 – Blown engine. A blown engine can occur as a result of problems such as a broken connecting rod, a damaged valve, or leaking oil. If you need an engine replacement, a new one costs between $1,000 and $4,000 (or much more), depending on your vehicle, the type of engine, and the shop where you get your car repaired.

#2 – Transmission replacement. On average, you are looking at a cost of between $1,800 and $3,500 for a replacement. If you opt for a repair instead of a replacement, your cost is a bit lower. You can have a transmission or clutch repaired for between $1,000 and $2,000.

#3 – Head gasket. If you blow a head gasket, you are looking at a serious cost. Although a gasket itself is cheap, the labor costs are high. According to estimates by the Engine Guy, you should pay between $1,200 and $1,600 for head gasket repair.

The economics of owning an electric vehicle start to overwhelm the costs and hassles associated with owning a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

The bottom-line is that economics of the electric car overwhelm the economics of an internal combustion engine (or hybrid engine), and in the long run the economics of the EV will win.

Yep, my next car will be an electric vehicle.

Data is NOT the New Oil. Data is the New Sun!

What does all this boring talk of economics of the automobile industry mean to an organization contemplating digital transformation? If you want to be successful with your digital transformation, organizations need to master exploiting the economics of their data and analytics in order to drive the production, consumption, and transfer (capture) of wealth.

However, “Data is the New Oil” is a dated analogy used to describe yesterday’s business models; business models built on assets that wear out (depreciate), deplete and cannot be used simultaneously across multiple uses.

Instead, “Data is the New Sun” is a more relevant analogy to describe tomorrow’s digitally-transformed business models as the sun can power an infinite number of uses at zero marginal cost, never wears out (or depreciates) and never depletes!


At its heart, digital transformation is about economics: transitioning from yesterday’s “economics of oil” mentality (expensive to find, expensive to extract, expensive to transport, environmentally hazardous, depletes, messy, dirty and environmental costly) to embracing the modern “economics of the sun” (clean, never depletes, never depreciates and is readily available to fuel an infinite number of uses).

The “economics of the sun” are exactly like the “economics of digital assets” in that your digital assets (data, analytics and resulting customer, product and operational insights) never deplete, never depreciate and are readily available to fuel an infinite number of use cases.

Embrace the economics of digital assets and the “4 Laws of Digital Transformation” to guide your digital transformation:

Law #1: Digital Transformation is about innovating business models, not just optimizing business processes

Law #2:  Digital Transformation is about coupling digital technologies with digital assets in order to eliminate time and distance barriers in your business model

Law #3: Digital Transformation is about leveraging superior insights to build new core competencies around customers, products and operational intelligence. 

Law #4:  Digital Transformation is about creating new digital assets around data, analytics and insights about your customers, products and operations. 

Law #5: Digital Transformation is about predicting what’s likely to happen, prescribing actions and learning from the results faster than your competition (predictive intelligence).

Fighting economics is a bitch! So embrace your data and analytic digital assets to exploit the “economics of the sun” to drive the production, consumption, and transfer (capture) of wealth in your digital transformation.

In the long run, economics win. Period.

Bill Schmarzo

About Bill Schmarzo

CTO, Dell EMC Services (aka “Dean of Big Data”)

Bill Schmarzo, author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and “Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science”, is responsible for setting strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings for Dell EMC’s Big Data Practice. As a CTO within Dell EMC’s 2,000+ person consulting organization, he works with organizations to identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He’s written white papers, is an avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and data science to power an organization’s key business initiatives. He is a University of San Francisco School of Management (SOM) Executive Fellow where he teaches the “Big Data MBA” course. Bill also just completed a research paper on “Determining The Economic Value of Data”. Onalytica recently ranked Bill as #4 Big Data Influencer worldwide.

Bill has over three decades of experience in data warehousing, BI and analytics. Bill authored the Vision Workshop methodology that links an organization’s strategic business initiatives with their supporting data and analytic requirements. Bill serves on the City of San Jose’s Technology Innovation Board, and on the faculties of The Data Warehouse Institute and Strata.

Previously, Bill was vice president of Analytics at Yahoo where he was responsible for the development of Yahoo’s Advertiser and Website analytics products, including the delivery of “actionable insights” through a holistic user experience. Before that, Bill oversaw the Analytic Applications business unit at Business Objects, including the development, marketing and sales of their industry-defining analytic applications.

Bill holds a Masters Business Administration from University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Computer Science and Business Administration from Coe College.

Read More

Join the Conversation

Our Team becomes stronger with every person who adds to the conversation. So please join the conversation. Comment on our posts and share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “It’s About Economics! Data is the New Sun

  1. Hmm, maybe things are different in the US – but when again was my last blown-up engine? Or gear-box replacement? Honestly: Never had one, sold my last car with 360.000km on the clock. Same for head-gasket.

    And I don’t assume that an e-engine will do that milage without needing any repair/replacement/maintenance whatever..

    HOWEVER – lot’s of oil changes etc.. So I do get the maintanenace point and would say there’s potential here!
    Just make sure there’s no battery needed. WAY to environmentally harmful!
    A fuel cell at an affordable rate would do the job and I am in!