Talk about Big Data in the technology world is often bolted down by hardware centric conversations. With incoming data sources growing by the day, questions abound on how we are to store, contain and categorise this information within the organisation.
But that’s purely an infrastructure conversation and all this planning could lead up to nothing if we don’t ask our data a spiritual question — what is it really teaching us about our business or customers?
As an industry watcher, I’m often thinking about what technologies in the coming age will cause the most wide-scale impact on industries, societies and human behaviour simultaneously.
While the past four decades of technology advancements may just be the foundation; it’s the ones pushing for crossover that make it exciting — the blending of physical and digital worlds; the meshing of the information and mobility world and the meeting of the data and decision worlds. And the one thing that sits right in the sweet spot is — Data Analytics.
In the third century BC, the great ancient mathematician and scientist Archimedes of Syracuse, preparing to step into his bath uttered an exclamation that today personifies insight — Eureka! Literally meaning “I have found it”, that insight gave the world two things — a calculation to measure the volume of irregular objects based on displacement and a concept to attach a value to something seemingly irregular or intangible at that point in time.
Cut to the 21st century; the combination of data and analytics for me seems to tell a similar story. Today an irregular component such as enterprise data sitting on your systems is able to deliver on tangible business value through analytics.
Less about storage, more about control and all about insight
The life purpose of any data today is to enable smart decision making. So in the race to stay on top of information explosion, organisations need to learn to manage data and not their storage capacities. It’s no longer enough for us to own our information. We need to know it. Analyse it. Learn from it.
The Big Data-Analytics combine therefore offers an excellent starting point for organisations to start auditing their data’s real value. So if your data lessons are not pointing you to new sources of sources of economic value and fresh insights for your business, it simply makes no sense in building or storing it for that matter.
Going a step further, it also opens the door to another upcoming reality of “internet of Things” which simply means a hyper-connected era. Done wrong, this could just be a whole new avenue to populating your storage with useless data. But done right — analytics can provide you with unprecedented ways to connected business and data.
Avoid data chaos
One of the big mistakes we can make with Big Data is not taking enough time to clearly think through the fundamental changes we need to make in information architectures. Because the industry is abuzz with excitement, often IT leaders tend to stay focused on just on managing the high volumes of information and leaving many other aspects of it unaddressed.
In reality, the ability to manage extreme data will need to soon become a core competency of enterprises that are using new forms of information integration, including social computing and context/location aware computing. But we need to be fully aware that this means becoming adept at finding patterns within that data to support and maybe even validate your business decisions.
One good way forward would be to involve business stakeholders from across your organisation as jointly ask your data strategy these questions. Technology and infrastructure can follow as long as you know what governs your plan:
• What are you gathering? We know you have data, but what exactly are you gathering?
• What are you spending on? Where are your budgets going? On buying storage to manage your exploding data inflows or are you spending on being able to access it quicker and more effectively?
• What are you learning? Does your data strategy teach you about your customer; have you learnt anything new about them from this data?
• Are you about History or Science? Think about the old data you have and talk about ways to refresh it. Organisations need to assess historical information and find ways to feed it to learn new things
• Where are your Social Sensibilities? Integration of social data is relevant only if it delivers insight. Think about which part of your business will really benefit from understanding social data and plan how this can help you change things around
• Do you have a new plan? Has your data strategy given you one new idea for your business or department — even if it’s a small one. Is it making you think of something exciting?
Looking back over past decade, the industry measured technology by its ability to help organisations save money. Today technology, particularly Data Analytics, is pushing us to measure its value by asking how we used it to grow and make our customers more loyal and connected. This represents nothing short of a landmark change in the industry.
The writer is the Technology Editor and return on investment strategist at Dubai-based CXO Strategies. She can be contacted via twitter @CXOConnectME