The big deal about big data

Big data is big news. Previously the preserve of large organisations, SMEs and start-ups are becoming more adept at analysing huge amounts of data to help gain an advantage in business
The big deal about big data
More data means more accurate analyses, meaning more confident decision making, cost effectiveness, reduced risk, and a better chance of success.
By Neil King
Mon 14 Oct 2013 04:08 PM

Data has grown exponentially in recent years. So much so that some commentators claim it could soon be as important to business as the internet has become.

More data means more accurate analyses, meaning more confident decision making, cost effectiveness, reduced risk, and a better chance of success.

Big data is essentially a collection of data sets so large and complex that traditional database management tools or processing applications struggle under their weight.

The amount of data created in the past ten years is estimated to be 500 times the amount created throughout the rest of human history.

And it’s is getting faster, with the rate of data creation expected to triple over the coming year.

More than 500 million tweets are sent every day, five billion people are using mobile devices, VISA is processing more than 172 million card transactions daily, and Facebook has more than 1.15 billion active users. And it all contributes to big data.

With so much data out there, the potential for improving business performance is huge. Research by Gartner found that businesses using big data outperform their competitors by about 20 percent, but at present only ten to fifteen percent of organizations are using it.

Humans create about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and until very recently it was only big companies who were able to use it.

That changed in 2010 when Google BigQuery was launched, allowing companies to conduct analysis of massive datasets, giving them more defined and detailed targets of customers, and helping them create an effective marketing strategy.

Among the benefits the analysis of big data can bring are the determination of root causes of failures, issues and defects in near-real time, calculation of risk portfolios within minutes, sending tailored recommendations to mobile devices while customers are in the right area so they can take advantage of offers, and much more.

From little things such as the average size of an order, to big issues such as the detection of fraudulent behaviour, big data can provide the information you need.

With increasingly sophisticated and a higher number of ways to mine the information, big data is likely to snowball very quickly, but there are challenges.

Firstly, it may be costly to access the information to need. Then where do you store it? How do you analyse it all? How do you establish which data points are most important to you, and how do you optimise its use?

There’s also the question of resistance. As it grows, will people rebel against providing data? Perhaps people will object to providing every last scrap of their personal information, or perhaps the public will look to sell it rather than provide it for free, knowing how valuable it can be to companies.

With data collected from mouse-clicks, purchases, location, movement, and just about every other move we make, the time may come when people say enough is enough. But until that point, there is a lot for SMEs to gain from tracking people’s behavior.

Practical steps that SMEs can take to gather information are unlikely to include finding and analysing the data themselves.

The processes can be complex, so it may be better to outsource the job, giving detailed explanations of what you want to find from the data.

The three  Vs of volume, variety and veracity make it difficult for the layman to make sense of big data, so it’s usually best to leave it to the experts.

What is becoming clear is that companies who are shying away from big data could quickly be left behind.

Those SMEs and start-ups with loose structures, vague customer profiles, and generalised marketing campaigns are bound to lose out to opponents who can pinpoint their targets and move confidently with the statistics to back them up.

Big data is big news, and is keeps getting bigger.

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