By modern standards, the \u201cDark Ages\u201d would literally have been dark.\nThe price of lighting has become 10,000 times cheaper since the year 1300, according to research by two British economists who measured the cost of lumens across light sources from candles to kerosene to electricity. (Here\u2019s an interactive chart of their findings.)\u00a0\nThe cost of being able to see once placed severe limits on the timing and location of doing business. Today light has been transformed from a constraint to an enabler. \u00a0\u00a0\nWith this in mind, let me introduce one more data point.\n\u00a0According to Deloitte\u2019s Center for the Edge, from 1992-2012 the cost of data storage fell from $569 to $0.03 per gigabyte.\u00a0 That\u2019s nearly a 19,000X difference. Put another way: in 20 years, the cost of storing data fell by almost twice as much as that of providing illumination since torches were state-of-the-art technology.\u00a0\nStrategies for using data based on policies, systems, or habits and practices that were fit for purpose 20 or even 10 years ago risk being as out of step with the magnitude of change as a \u201cChief Candle Officer.\u201d\u00a0\n\u00a0I\u2019ve seen how tough it can be to embrace a new way of thinking about data as an enabler of growth as well as the magic a CIO who seizes the opportunity can create.\u00a0\nThrough the Nike+ digital platform, tens of millions of people\u2014both current and potential Nike customers\u2014are volunteering billions of data points on where and when they exercise, how and why they exercise, and what they are trying to achieve.\u00a0\n\u00a0Much like Facebook, Nike only reached this scale at pace by offering Nike+ accounts for free\u2014no purchase required.\u00a0\u00a0\nI offered Nike as an example of a product company successfully creating a direct, data-rich relationship with consumers to some consumer packaged goods (CPG) executives who were just starting to think about their digital strategy.\u00a0\nRather than keying in on Nike+ as an example of an opportunity open to a product company like theirs, they instead focused on the downside risk: if there are millions of accounts, every non-buyer costs money. \n\u00a0What\u2019s right for Nike won\u2019t be right every company. But I believe the lower cost of storing data together with the maturity of cloud-based resources for getting more out of it makes it essential that every enterprise banish the impulse to see data as a burden akin to carrying inventory.\u00a0\u00a0\nMost companies, for example, invest in marketing and advertising. \u00a0And most can only look with envy at Nike\u2019s track record of delivering powerful ads.\u00a0 Yet by some estimates, Nike has shifted 40% of print and TV spend to digital.\u00a0 This suggests that a master of traditional marketing is seeing data-driven digital engagement as a better option.\u00a0\nMany companies also wrestle with a concern I heard a CPG executive express: \u201cWhen Amazon sells our products, it gets the data, so it knows more about our customers and our market than we do.\u201d \u00a0Every company for whom customer insight has traditionally been a competitive advantage needs a game plan for the new world in which traditional market research can\u2019t match the pace and scale of the way Amazon (and others) learn using data and analytics.\u00a0\nToday you can certainly buy Nike shoes from Amazon.\u00a0 \u00a0But Nike+ gives it a pole-position understanding of their customers, consumer-athletes in general, and emerging trends.\u00a0\nMy friend Jerry Wolfe exemplifies the CIO who embraces this new market context.\u00a0\nJerry was the CIO at McCormick & Company\u2014a company most of us associate with the spice display in our grocery store. \u00a0McCormick also has a B2B business based on their expertise in flavor science\u2014why we like what we like and how to create those tastes.\u00a0 (I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Jerry at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium where he spoke about his digital journey\u2014it\u2019s well worth a listen).\u00a0\u00a0\nJerry knew the ROI of McCormick\u2019s existing investments in marketing and advertising.\u00a0 \u00a0He knew that McCormick\u2019s market research showed that consumers were frustrated with finding food they liked and putting dinners that weren\u2019t boring on the table. \u00a0He saw these as problems to be solved with data. With support from his CEO, he carved out opportunity to test new digital strategies.\u00a0\nThis led to FlavorPrint.\u00a0 It\u2019s a digital personalization service for food that gives McCormick a direct, data-rich relationship with shoppers. It marries the \u201cflavor science\u201d the company already knew with a data science competency they built.\u00a0 It has shown enough promise that Vivanda was spun out as an industry-wide platform play, where Jerry is now CEO: think a \u201cPandora of food.\u201d (Disclosure: McCormick and Vivanda are customers of my employer, Apigee.)\n\u00a0As a CIO in a hundred-year-old company, Jerry envisioned first his company\u2019s traditional value chain (and now what he calls \u201cthe network of food\u201d) lit up by data much like our nighttime world is awash in light. This is possible for any company, and the CIO can lead the way.