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Big Data

One of the greater data challenges is creating a common understanding of what big data is, or more importantly what it isn’t, and what benefits it can provide.

What is big data?

For the tech junkies, big data is all about the 5 ‘V’s:

  • Volume – how do you handle data that struggles inside a traditional relational database?
  • Velocity – how do you handle data that is rapidly being generated and streamed?
  • Variety – how do you handle unstructured data like PDF files, or data in audio and video files?
  • Variability – or that is erratic in nature?
  • Value – what do you gain from all of this data?

For analysts, big data refers less to its size or complexity, but more towards a set of methods used to analyse such data. For strategic business thinkers, big data invokes thoughts of improved customer engagement, smarter and leaner business processes, reducing of operational costs and discovering new opportunities through big data investment.

We see big data as all of the above. In our view, big data is:

‘A set of technologies that enable organisations to collect, process and analyse large, complex and rich sets of internal data, enhanced with external data, to drive confident decision making, improve business efficiency, reduce cost and minimise risk.’

What isn’t big data?

We often hear myths or false statements being made about big data:

  • Big data is a new shiny thing that will solve all your problems. Big data is nothing new. It can help to answer the ‘big’ questions, but contrary to the hype, it will not solve all your problems. Having said that, many businesses are using big data fruitfully to digitalise customer engagement and disrupt business thinking.  
  • Big data is a replacement for an enterprise business intelligence solution. Definitely not. A strong data strategy combines big data technologies with traditional structured business intelligence to maximise the opportunity for understanding, discovery and innovation.
  • Big data is inherently valuable. Gartner researchers insist that data is inherently dumb, and in fact it is algorithms that define action. It’s how you manage, view and use the data that creates value.
  • Big data is only for large companies. Today, even small business and start-ups collect significant amounts of data. Gleaning insight from this data plays a fundamental role in growing the small business.
  • Big data is complicated and expensive. Big data is not as complicated as you might think, especially to those who work with complex data sets and algorithms every day. We live in a world of big-data-driven algorithms from what we buy in the supermarket to what we watch on Netflix. As for expensive, one of the biggest failures of big data implementations are the focus on infrastructure, tools and resource cost. Big data must be a business-led initiative with a focus on outcomes and ROI.

How can big data benefit my organisation?

Without easy access to good quality data, business leaders can rely only on intuition to make strategic business decisions. A well maintained business intelligence solution takes away the reliance on intuition, enabling decisions to be based on fact. However, to begin to answer the harder questions, such as predicting ‘what impact is our marketing campaign likely to have?’ and understanding ‘how people engage with our website’ requires the collection and analysis of large volumes of fast arriving, highly variable data from sources such as social media, web logs and mouse movement.

Utilising big data technologies can help to answer these hard questions, but as with any business-led, data-driven challenge, asking the right questions is most important part.

Looking to answer the big questions? Engage Consolidata

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Head of Innovation and Joint founder

Gordon Meyer

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