Real-time data is becoming more common in a variety of areas, which has the potential to significantly impact the way we do business. This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with Matt Egan, writer for, on a story he wrote entitled, “NFL Tackles Real-Time Sales Data.” The article describes a new technology just implemented by the New York Jets of the National Football League. The software application provides the team with real-time data on parking, concessions, tickets and merchandise, as well as live video from the stadium’s closed-circuit television.

Most of the other article’s contributors were ecstatic in their praise for the new technology. However, my comments centered on the fact that while real-time data can be helpful, the key is the people looking at the data. Companies like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns had tons of real-time data, right up until the point they filed for bankruptcy. It didn’t help them much. In fact, you could make the argument that they relied so heavily on their technology, they took the human element of common sense out of their decision making.

Real-time data can be valuable when it’s broken down and recombined in a unique way to come up with a new approach, product or service that can bring value to customers. It allows managers to understand consumption behaviors. Great managers will then find trends in the data to indicate patterns that can be taken advantage of moving forward to provide even better products/services. Data alone is valuable but doesn’t give the all-important “why?” At the end of the day, it’s still the strategic decision-making that will make or break the business.

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