Earlier this week I had the privilege of joining the NASDAQ Venture Series: Data panel at Advertising Week 2013. I was joined by other leaders in their respective industries including Rocketfuel, Varonis, ShareThis, AdTheroent, and Millward Brown Digital. Bringing together these bright minds from varied verticals to talk about data is emblematic of just how widespread the adoption of data-driven initiatives has become.

What I found most critical about our dialogue is that it wasn’t the typical theme of “everyone needing to adopt data as a key accelerator for their business.” That fact is already established, and discussing it any further is of little value. The conversation is now about how companies are thinking and talking about data. Businesses no longer see data as a set of abstract numbers, rather it’s a strategic piece of the 360 degree image of a customer. Absorbing and organizing the relevant pieces of large data sets is necessary in order to construct a complete image of each and every individual. Using this picture, businesses can then create strategies and see how their own Smart Data will shape new, unique KPIs.

Even though businesses are more readily embracing data solutions, all of the panelists agree there is still a massive silo problem when it comes to implementation. Making data actionable and a principal revenue driver is an enterprise challenge that requires understanding across an entire company, not just marketers or data analysts. Education is tantamount to championing this obstacle. Executives and data authorities within an organization need to lead a charge in educating every employee, across every department to break down traditional silos and make way for innovation.

Another resounding takeaway from the panel is something everyone at Sailthru feels passionately about: Data is not replacing jobs (and it won’t in the future); nor should it stunt creativity. Each individual on the panel agreed that having Smart Data and actionable customer insights frees up creative teams from low-value legwork and allows them to devote their time to creating compelling content, potent campaigns, and the very best work to reach exactly the right audience. The data and means for automation is merely helping teams perform at their highest level, and move their priorities back where they belong.

These are just a few of the takeaways from our Advertising Week panel that not only impressed me, but made me feel like the industry is moving in a new direction regarding the way we use and talk about data. This conversation shift from “Big Data” to unlocking the right data is what we’ve been waiting for at Sailthru. And it has arrived.

David Blanke is the COO & CFO of Sailthru.