Q: Let’s say you’re a data architect working in a Fortune 100 industrial company today. What keeps you up at night? What are the changes in the marketplace that should be on your radar?

A: Well, it’s really several business and tech changes converging at once. One big change is the transition from an “iron” to a “time-based” revenue model. An industrial company used to make money by saying, “Let’s make machines and sell them, then sell them again when they wear out.” Now companies bill out based on time-in-operation. That means every minute of downtime after a breakdown equals incredible amounts of missed revenue and potential penalty payments.

Now if you’re the product manager, you know at some point your CEO is going to come to you and say, “Hey, solve this business problem… and I want you to use all this rich data my engineers have been telling me about.” That problem could be anything from design optimization, predictive maintenance, model orchestration for an installation quoting system, or using test cell data to catch anomalies in performance. But let’s say the problem you have to solve is managing the “digital twin” of a piece of industrial equipment to make sure it never goes down, or if it does go down, that downtime is limited.

This is a nightmare for the data architect if the infrastructure isn’t there to support data access. There’s simply too much data from too many sources, none of it organized or indexed. The product managers, data architects and C-level executives I’ve been talking to are already thinking of creative ways to manage a complex data architecture. It’s a fun time to be watching all this unfold. I think they’ll be writing about this period as a pivotal moment in data management history. The ones that are doing business as usual and resting on legacy systems won’t have a job for much longer. I think many industrial companies are about to have their own “Kodak moment.”