“Big Data” is currently a common buzzword, but a lot of the people who use it don’t really understand what it is or what its usage entails. Big Data is an extremely powerful resource in the right hands; the ability to properly sort and analyze it can give virtually any organization a significant competitive advantage.
Let’s start by defining exactly what it is. Big Data is any dataset that’s too large and/or complex for traditional management tools. Not a very satisfying definition, is it? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Basically, Big Data is everything related to an organization. It’s customer browsing and purchasing habits. It’s what employees spend their time doing while at work. It’s emails sent between executives, security briefs released by the IT department, newsletters sent out to inform staff of an upcoming picnic. It’s data streamed from mobile phones, through laptops and desktop computers, through applications both proprietary and third-party. Taken together, all of this information tends to be largely unstructured; anything with structure has probably already been analyzed.
The sheer scale of all this information makes it difficult for most people to even imagine it, let alone sift through it. This is made significantly more difficult by the fact that a large percentage of this information tends to be more or less useless to an organization. Therein lies the biggest problem with Big Data: there’s a whole lot of noise.
However, it is clear that there are patterns in that data. These patterns pertain to everything from customer habits to the operational side of a business. By analyzing them a business could become better at connecting with its target demographic or far more efficient in how it manages its employees. In short, the insights gained through the study of Big Data are extremely valuable, regardless of one’s field. Anyone, from those working in medical science to those in the entertainment industry, can gain an advantage.
In many cases, Big Data tends to be largely predictive: it allows an organization to better determine what might happen based on what has already happened.
That’s something business metrics have been trying to do for years.
Although “Big Data” is most certainly a buzz-phrase, the concepts that it represents, the vast ocean of unstructured information created by our online habits, are made no less valuable by the association. Through proper analysis of this vast collection of data, an organization can gain considerable insight into both itself and its consumers. This will, in turn, offer a marked advantage over any competitors who haven’t bothered to tap into the resource.