Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What does it mean to be fast? Why all businesses need to think with a microsecond mindset

By Kathy Schneider, CMO, KX

In 2020, nearly all businesses (97%) saw an increase in the volume and variety of data entering their business, driven by the explosion of sensors and the accelerated digital transformation of all industry sectors. Businesses are used to grappling with explosions in data volume, but now, the debate is no longer about Big Data. It’s about Fast Data, and the speed of turning these data volumes into actionable insights. Those businesses that can react the fastest will successfully get ahead of their competition.

The past year has shown how data-led leaders within IT and beyond know they need to create processes and onboard technology to get quicker, faster and more agile.

But what does being fast mean? Particularly when it comes to acting on and using data? And how can you help your business get faster?

This is an important discussion to have, because in a world of fast data, being the quickest matters. Too many businesses are failing to act on data quickly enough to turn it into competitive advantage. In our recent research into real-time data analytics, a third of businesses (31%) are accessing and acting on data within a second. With only a small minority (13%) acting on it in a microsecond. While this doesn’t sound like a big difference, these microseconds can impact big decisions and bottom lines. And an increasing number of organisations are realising it’s absolutely critical that they get faster.

Improving performance

We liken this focus on speed and performance to the world of sport. In athletics, performance coaches train people to be faster by focusing on three factors: speed, agility and quickness. It’s these three core components that athletes focus and train on to improve, to beat their competition and to claim a podium place. They analyse and break down their performance data, looking at ways in which they can tweak, improve and change the way they train, how they run, jump or lift.

And being faster with data is critical to a business’s performance, too. Two-thirds (64%) of all businesses understand the value of processing data in real-time, and over half (56%) know real-time data analytics gives them the edge over the competition. But still, too many businesses are slow: nearly seven in ten (69%) believe real-time data is up to a minute or even slower.

We think there’s a number of lessons businesses can learn from athletics. To help them focus on their speed, agility and quickness. Let me show you.


When we focus on a business’s speed, we talk about how microseconds matter – both in the moment and in aggregate. In athletics, tiny decisions in fractions of seconds combine to make the difference between winning and losing. For businesses, this means thinking and acting on crucial data decisions within the microsecond, which we call a microsecond mindset.

The importance of microseconds, and the need to always be looking at ways to be faster, can’t be stressed enough. Take the 100 metre sprint: Usain Bolt’s world record on the track over this distance is 9.58s. The second fastest was his previous world record – a whole 11ms “slower”.

It was through this approach to his speed that Bolt was able to constantly improve and outperform not only the competition, but himself too. At KX,  we’ve fostered an environment where engineers openly compete for algorithmic speed. Because high performance teams need high performance tools to get those marginal gains and look to constantly improve and outperform even themselves.


In athletics, agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, stabilize and quickly change directions with proper posture. As a business, this means being agile from prototype to production, and enacting faster innovation cycles, powered by real-time data analytics, to get to the market faster. You have to be able to act on data in the moment, making automated decisions in microseconds to improve how fast you are. 

In Formula 1, for example, leading racing teams use our tech to enhance analytical capabilities both on track and in wider operational performance. By analysing data in real-time, KX can deliver significant efficiency and utilisation benefits right across the racing team. And in the gambling sector, KX helps firms accurately process and manage hundreds of thousands of betting transactions in just one second.

But while F1 is an obvious place to start when we talk about being faster, we’re already seeing tech and data teams within sectors as vast and varied as manufacturing, utilities and beyond looking at making their own improvements through fast data.


For athletes – whether they are long distance runners, sprinters or long jumpers – quickness is the ability to react and change body position with a maximum rate of force production. So that they can run faster and longer or jump higher.

For businesses and organisations, this approach focuses on scalability and elasticity. These are critical enablers of quickness, to ensure as a business you can quickly react to exponential increases in data volumes, wherever and whenever you need it. Statista figures have shown that volumes of data from IoT devices alone will hit 79.4 zettabytes by 2025. This is not surprising when taken in the context that a connected factory, for example, will create millions of data points a second from sensors in machinery.

Quickness in this context means looking at how scaleable or elasticated your data capabilities are, and whether you should switch to the cloud to cope with rises in data volumes, or to help connect, collate and process data from different touch points, such as sensors within a factory, or on a racing car.

Adopting a microsecond mindset

Combining a fast approach with speed, agility and quickness, through the lens of a real-time data strategy, means businesses are able to respond to data quickly and meaningfully in a way that delivers value. 

This can guide smarter decision making – unlocking continuous business intelligence – which can generate efficiencies at scale and power growth, all of which are high on the agenda for businesses in a post-Covid world. By placing streaming analytics at the heart of your organisation, you can position your organisation at the front of the race.