What’s the Big Deal About Big Data
Big Data. It’s a somewhat intimidating (and vague) term, but this buzzword is really quite straightforward. “Big Data” refers to the collection and storage of mass quantities of data that can then be sliced, diced and mashed up to find patterns and trends related to everything from business to health care.
The nature of the data being collected explains the recent explosion around the concept—social media “posts,” “tags,” “check-ins” and “review” are from sources that didn’t exist just 10 years ago. Most amazingly, continual analysis of this streaming data uncovers patterns as they happen.
In the case of Big Data, the phrase “power in numbers” proves to be true—the more information these Big Data systems can collect, the more valuable the set of information can become. Take Siri,¹ the iPhone’s “personal assistant” application that answers questions about local restaurants, the weather forecast and current traffic conditions: Since Siri is a cloud application,² Apple engineers can continually add data that everyone benefits from instantaneously.
Should you be focused on Big Data now? In short, yes. With the amount of data being created and collected doubling yearly,³ it will be more and more important to have systems that can process and extract insights of value to your business.
Mike Gualtieri at Forrester wrote a great post 4 about finding “Your Big Data Score.” He postures that having an actionable definition around Big Data will enable you to determine if your company has usable Big Data. First, he asks if it can be measured by volume, velocity and variety and then applies his “Theory of Relativity” to see if the data volume, velocity and variety are relative. In other words, can you store, process and query it? From there you can calculate a score for the current state of Big Data at your company.
Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner declared (back in March 2009)5, “Personal data is the new oil of the Internet and the new currency of the digital world.”
Has your company struck oil? Are you able to translate volumes of data into manageable, bite-sized pieces? If not, what data sets would you like to be using as currency that you aren’t now?
 IDC 2011 Digital Universe study, Extracting Value from Chaos
(Gartner suggests that they invented the “3 V’s” of big data in 2001, see here: http://blogs.gartner.com/doug-laney/deja-vvvue-others-claiming-gartners-volume-velocity-variety-construct-for-big-data/)
 World Economic Forum, Personal Data: The Emergence of a New Asset Class. January 2011