Big Data is king. It is considered as the new black gold or the new natural resource. Big Data has made a big bang entry into modern life and business, influencing corporations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to the mom-and-pop stores in the backyard. The volume of Big Data is sky-rocketing, with some estimates suggesting that a whopping 2.4 quintillion new bits are being created each day.
What is Big Data?
What is Big Data after all? When one thinks Big Data, one visualizes incredible amounts of data and new ways of using data. There is a torrent of digital data and this is changing the nature of doing business in a very fundamental manner. Big data refers to the large volume of structured and unstructured data that is generated by digital processes, social media exchanges, business transactions, and machine-based activity, and can be used by organizations for business gains. Big Data includes systems and processes governing data generation, collation, management, control and usage. Big Data is a blend of high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety data. It presents itself in varied formats, from structured and numeric to unstructured text documents, video, audio and email data. Big Data is transmitted at a break-neck speed and must therefore be analyzed and processed at a fast pace to ensure real-time results.
Big Data is a big asset for every business. It enables companies to collect better market and customer intelligence. Big Data will enhance operational efficiency within companies by tracking employee performance and also use sensors to track performance of machines. It will also enable companies to improve the customer experience by building big data into their product offerings.
Big data is no longer the preserve of data management companies and specialists alone. Mega corporations such as Facebook, Walmart, Bank of America and Dell manage petabytes of data per day. Ford Motor Company gathers data averaging 25 gigabytes an hour per car, under its Smart Mobility initiative, to make advances in its Ford Fusion hybrids. GE uses data from sensors placed on gas turbines and jet engines to introduce bigger and better models.
The retail giant Amazon use Big Data to keep track of its customers’ names and addresses, payments details and search history, time spent on its website and the quality of customer experience. The company would use this information to customize its marketing strategy and engage better with its customers.
The multinational financial services company, American Express, uses Big Data to analyze and predict consumer behavior. The entertainment streaming service Netflix uses data and analytics to create digital content and influence the viewing behavior of its consumers. Lucrative gaming and betting websites such as NetBet use Big Data to design games and plan promotional activities.
Big Data, by its very nature, involves an information overload. It would be a daunting task for the data to be organized into meaningful, actionable chunks, even with the help of machine learning.
Big Data can lead to privacy concerns. The proliferation of data about a person can be liable to theft and misuse. Moreover, cloud-based storage is not as secure as on-site data warehouses.
Big Data also demands a revamped way of doing things at the workplace. Traditional organizations tend to receive and process business intelligence on a weekly basis. Real-time insights, fuelled by advances in Big Data, would demand action that is also real-time. This shift in work culture would make the organization an information-centric body and it has to be up to the task.
The biggest impediment to adopting Big Data is the cultural challenges that would rear their head in the form of organizational alignment, resistance to new technology, lack of understanding and change management issues.
Big Data and its convergence with other technological mega trends such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IOT) and virtual reality are set to change the innovation and technological map of the world.
We are at a tipping point or a paradigm shift in the data world, beyond which companies will analyze new types of data in real-time and use it business decisions in incredible ways.
Big Data will help existing companies to create new growth opportunities. It will also spawn new types of companies focused on providing big data services, and businesses that combine and analyze industry data.
Data volumes are also set to register an exponential growth, considering the expected exponential rise in data gathering capacities and the quantum jump in digital lifestyle.
“All companies are data businesses now,” Forrester says, while predicting that more companies will attempt to drive value and revenue from their data. The International Institute for Analytics estimates that businesses using data will gain $430 billion in productivity benefits vis-à-vis their data-deprived competitors, by 2020.
Any discussions about the future of Big Data are obsolete in some ways. Big Data is already in the ‘here and now’ as market leaders are capitalizing on Big Data to assert their competitive advantage. The challenge consists in making the flood of data meaningful and actionable. Big Data will change how businesses operate and compete, and sweep aside those that fail to adapt and transform themselves in face of a looming market disruption.
Businesses can retain their importance and stay ahead of the competition only by differentiating themselves, and this is only possible by exploiting the potential of Big Data.