The Basics of Big Data

MBN Big Data

What’s it all about?

With the words ‘Big Data’ garnering so much press commentary and market rhetoric in 2013, it is almost certainly going to be the basis of further comment through 2014.  However, we continue to here form many about the so-called expanse of the subject matter.  So, what is Big Data really about?  In this blog entry, we at MBN attempt to demystify the term and provide our perspective on what its all about.

Big Data… just another technological initiative?

Lets start off with a little of what lies at the centre of Big Data? Big Data is not primarily a technological challenge. For many organisations, it is a new way of thinking about data and a new way of doing business based on insight.

Most organisations we work with report that Big Data provides vast new flows of information – information that can bring insight that will change not just the decisions you make – but how decisions are made throughout the business.  In reality, the extent to which it is a new flow of information is always debatable and in our opinion, it is often the case that its actually an untapped rich seem of information previously unused by the business.

Decision support and defined benefits

While today’s Big Data opportunity lies in the ability to leverage large and diverse data sets of all varieties (including internally generated unstructured data – such as e-mail archives), of particular focus are new and large data sets originating outside the traditional boundaries of the enterprise.  Some of these datasets may exist with business partners and this presents challenges around working together, trust, privacy and security.

It is important to note though, that Big Data is not just about ‘data’. Increased maturity in analytical techniques and capabilities make possible analysis and decisions that were simply not practical or available a few years ago.  This results in the ability to make better, faster, smarter business decisions in situations that are more complex, interrelated and knowledge intensive.

New technology?

So despite starting this blog with a note that Big Data is not primarily a technological; challenge, Big Data is spawning entirely new classes of technology – such as in-memory computing, columnar databases, applications that provide increasingly robust analytic power into end-user tool sets; not to mention the use of open source tool sets. How companies leverage these new technologies, while incorporating Big Data architectures into their legacy environment, presents a major challenge.   This is where the very best talent come into play and become a prerequisite for a successful Big Data venture.

Too good to be true?  What about the risks?

So… episode passes plenty of upsides but what about the risks?  We’ve already touched on trust; privacy and security but its important to take this a step further.  Examples of escalating risks include data breach and privacy concerns. With such large volumes of data now housed within the business and analytics often focused on better understanding customer and/or employee patterns and behaviors, the risk of data breach and privacy issues increases significantly. Litigation and damage to reputation and brand can often result. These and other risks must be considered, addressed and balanced in order to realise the full potential of the opportunity.  Once again, having appropriate talented staff best mitigates many of these issues.

Conclusion… its about people

Want to know more about how we can help you to find the right people to maximise the benefits of your initiative?  Click here for a confidential discussion with one of our consultants who can discuss where you find such individuals.  If you’re a potential candidate and you believe you have the right skillset to make the most of Big Data, contact us here.

Paul Forrest