Why big data is a big deal
Big data increasingly means big business for those able to use it effectively, and finance professionals in particular are becoming more switched on to the subject: 85% believe that increasing […]
Big data increasingly means big business for those able to use it effectively, and finance professionals in particular are becoming more switched on to the subject: 85% believe that increasing their competency in it would enhance their career prospects. But what exactly does the term mean, and what do you need to know about it?
For the non-tech-savvy person to understand the concept it’s best to break into three ways: volume, velocity, and variety. These vectors enable analysts to begin to measure and manage data, but are really just the tip of the iceberg.
Big data generally encompasses more data than we can comprehend, but which still needs managing to make it useful. For volume, consider how many photos there are on Facebook or videos on Youtube. Each of those will have data associated with it – names, dates, views etc., so that’s the kind of scale we’re talking about.
However data is also constantly moving at rapid speed (velocity). Think how much content is uploaded on social media every day. Management of big data isn’t a one-time effort, it’s a constantly moving beast that needs to be responsive to the rate of data generated.
Marketers may be interested in how many people “out there” are talking about a particular brand or product, but getting hold of that data in a timely manner and being able to use it can be complex and costly. IT professionals need to be aware of how much data is sent between systems and networks and be able to manage this securely, while finance professionals may wish to get insight on the millions transactions made with their company at any given time.
When considering the variety of data out there – names, numbers, dates, lists, IP addresses, images and so much more, all recorded and structured in different ways by different tools, suddenly you realise that a simple spreadsheet just isn’t going to cut it for Big Data management.
So how do you manage it?
As one of the big business challenges of the present day, executives are constantly trying out new ways to harness big data for competitive advantage – turning science into action. There’s big money and potential to disrupt whole industries if it can be managed properly, but taking the right approach is crucial.
What’s important to remember, especially for finance professionals who may have to sign off on big data projects, is to think simple, and remember to focus only on what’s valuable to the business: does the data you’re attempting to measure actually matter to the business, can you do something with the output of the analysis, and does the benefit of the action outweigh the cost?
It can be challenging for organisations to get their heads around big data and the technologies on the market to assist them (which can be cheaper than traditional data warehousing), but without the business case clear upfront, that challenge won’t get any simpler.
While images, video, and text are among the fastest growing data types, using big data algorithms or expensive technologies to turn unstructured data into useful insight is much easier said than done.
And without a clearly defined data strategy companies risk huge costs, only to find themselves searching for how to turn analysis into business innovation afterwards.