Dell CEO: Get ready for the ‘data economy’

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

No matter who you are and what you do, you’re in the technology business now.

That was the message from Michael Dell, founder, chairman and CEO of technology company Dell Inc. speaking Tuesday to members of the Detroit Economic Club, meeting at Cobo Hall.

As technology becomes more and more deeply imbedded in smart devices, from phones to cars to homes, the amount of data and the possible uses of that data are growing exponentially, he said.

“It’s not just the PC and smart phones any more, it’s the sensors in autos and smart homes and smart cities,” Dell said. “The amount of data that is being created is just remarkable and all that has to be turned into better outcomes and results and better products and services. Companies are realizing that they have to be software companies to be able to actually be in whatever business they’re in.”

Noting that Detroit’s Big Three automakers are now moving toward building what are, essentially, computers on wheels, Dell noted that the business world also needs to recognize that technology is shifting from being a tool to transform old types of business activities into something that spawns entirely new types of businesses.

“There is this unpredictable expansion of how technology gets used,” Dell said. “If you think about new businesses like Uber or Airbnb, those companies had business-model innovations enabled by technology. Now, because technology is moving from the back office where you were making what you were doing before more efficient, it’s changing the way you interact with customers and changing the product or service in real time.”

This digital transformation to the data economy is just beginning. Dell added that, “There’s a long way to go in terms of using the data. We’re sort of at the 1 percent stage of the data economy.”

Noting that existing companies can find themselves facing a kind of digital fear, Dell concluded, “The future doesn’t care if you’re ready.”


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