In 1980, futurist Alvin Toffler surmised in his book "The Third Wave" that society was entering a post-industrial age where information-and the ability to control and manipulate that information-would become as or more valuable than other commodities. Fast forward to 2014, and many of his book's predictions have come true. At their core, companies like Amazon, eBay, Google and even SourceMedia are successful in part because they provide users with access to relevant, valuable information.

So if information and the ability to manipulate it are so critical, why are scores of companies still struggling with how to leverage big data? And more specifically, why aren't industries like financial services further evolved when it comes to data-driven sales and marketing? We have more data than ever at our fingertips, but for many companies it remains underleveraged or, worse, completely unused. Some of this has to do with systems and technology. You can have all the data in the world, but unless it's rendered in a digestible format-one that sales executives or marketers can understand-it's not going to be utilized. I'll save that analysis for another column.

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