Tomorrow has arrived. Data-spewing computers informing the behaviour and decisions of business power players is no longer some blurry vision of the future — it’s future-now and market leaders around the world are looking to data and data analytics to help them secure that Holy Grail in business: competitive advantage.
The concept of data as a make-or-break factor is hardly new. In his 2012 book Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave, Bill Franks, chief analytics officer at the International Institute for Analytics, said that public- and private-sector companies that seize on big data early will enjoy an enormous advantage over competitors; meanwhile, companies that act in the opposite direction when it comes to data stand to suffer. As more and more companies intensify their efforts around data, plotting and executing a data strategy becomes something a company does not to get ahead but merely to keep up.
How big, how structured
In general terms, big data is data that is of a size and complexity that is beyond what traditional database tools can handle. The “big” in Big Data (its size, or how much of it there is) is only part of the challenge for analysts. Structure can present an enormous challenge. While structured data is highly organized, making it easy to organize and to search using basic algorithms (e.g., sales records, Excel files containing customer data), unstructured data, including video files, photos, and text messages, is not that well organized and has no associated model.
Some early Big Data leaders have had some success combining unstructured data — browser data and other data around customers’ online habits — with traditional, structured data. Such an approach, in how it paints a reasonably accurate portrait of customers, can result in companies gaining a competitive advantage. However, doing anything of the sort requires, at base, considerable skill at wading through unstructured data intelligently and efficiently, to identify the pieces that matter and letting go of the rest.
The Internet of Things is coming into a boom period, and will soon connect billions of devices. Big Data will keep expanding, to capture mobile, social media, and other data-intensive areas. As this goes on, the question of how to reliably and economically process this data will loom ever larger. So too will the job of managing data — capturing it, processing it, protecting it — get bigger as time goes on.
Companies that want to either achieve success or better position themselves for success must put time and energy into a Big Data strategy. This is the only way to meet both the data challenges of today and those of tomorrow, some of which are known and some which are as yet unknown. Naturally, out of strategy will come action, which for companies looking to leverage their data will involve putting in place the necessary tools, staff, processes, and infrastructure.
Free Nutanix ebook
To read about big data and its role in the enterprise of today and tomorrow, download “The Definitive Guide to Big Data,” a Nutanix ebook.