The real value of big data
With a soaring rise in both interest and uptake, big data has undoubtedly become one of the most talked about themes of 2012. Yet this surge of attention also means that some executives are dismissing the term as another industry buzzword.
However, there really is no doubt of the impact big data is having on businesses. Relevant across such a diverse spectrum of industries it offers an uncompromised wealth of potential and companies across the board are recognising the value attached to it. A recent IBM study found that 63 per cent of UK companies now recognise the competitive advantage it brings – a huge leap from 34 per cent just two years before. Similarly, a report from Gartner forecast big data to drive more than £20 billion ($34 billion) of IT spending in 2013. Quite a feat for an industry buzzword.
While this increased interest is encouraging there is still much to do to ensure organisations are truly getting the most from the opportunities in front of them. The rate at which big data technology and its applications have grown has led to a skills-gap both in understanding how to implement big data solutions and in the analytical skills required to exploit them to create business value.
All the same there remains a level of comprehension that many businesses are yet to cross; some 40 per cent of UK companies attribute “a lack of understanding of how to use big data to impact business” as their main barrier to engagement.
As such the emergence of big data has seemed to coincide with the birth of a new role in business: the so-called data scientist. While the title might be new, this is very much an evolution of the analyst’s role; building on their key skills and attributes – that is, the curiosity and imagination required to extract meaningful insight from data – but adapting the approach for the wider big data toolset now available to do that.
Less than 25 per cent of UK businesses currently feel that they have the capabilities to analyse highly unstructured data, so the roles of the data scientist and the technologies they use are becoming increasingly desirable.
Education is not only needed in how to use the data, but also in what sources we can exploit for it. In reality some 80 per cent of the raw data we generate is in unstructured format, yet companies typically mine structured data, like that from business transactions. Other rich sources are being overlooked, including the likes of geospatial location data, voice and video, and even social media which offers huge potential to marketers and businesses. Imagine having real-time access to the world’s largest focus group: current customers and even those who aren’t, along with their sentiments and buying intentions. It really is an extraordinary opportunity and can deliver real-time insight like never before.
Big data isn’t just a buzzword, it’s the hottest trend in analytics and it’s future looks brighter than ever. With each step we’re taking we’re bridging the gap between the deeply technical and the art of the possible, delivering deeper insights into all areas of business. And as our understanding grows, so do the possibilities. Big data is leading one of the most exciting movements in analytics and technology, and fuelling a multi-million dollar industry. Of course there is a lot to learn, but similarly there is a whole lot to gain.
About the Author
Matin Jouzdani is a senior manager in IBM’s business analytics practice and big data leader for UK. He specialises in client projects that seek to demonstrate, through the application of advanced analytics, the insight and value hidden in data. He is currently responsible for developing the big data services capability in the UK and leads a team of data scientists. Matin holds a first-class degree in pure mathematics from Imperial College London.