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Big Data is not about Big Data

Big Data is not about Big Data

Well it is not just about big data. There has always been a lot of hype about the term ‘big data’. It is important to understand what it really is and not to be blinded by the sales talk that you will encounter.

The concept of Big data has been proven to be revolutionary for many industries. Those that have embraced it are seeing new products and better insights. There are still plenty of opportunities for those who are still trying to find a home for it, although it might not be relevant just yet.

The big in Big data is only one part of the story. The real challenge is the diverse sources, new data types and the continuous flow of information. Organisations are now striving to consume, analyse and gain insight from different data types & sources. Amazingly most of these formats did not exist a few years ago.

Diverse external data is being layered on to internal data to add further value and insight into decisions. Just imagine what happens to those likes and comments on social media. How are they aiding the understanding of consumer trends?

Confusion between Big Data and Business Intelligence

Have you ever interchanged the terms Big Data and Business Intelligence? While the swap can be forgiven it is not accurate. Businesses have been analyzing data for decades so the concept of using data to gain insight is not new. But there have been many terms used with each change bringing new elements.

One of those terms was Business intelligence. BI really came to prominence in the early 2000’s as advanced tools came to the market to enable data interrogation. Some see BI as merely an evolution of business reporting but I see it as something far greater – which I will go into in another article ( )

Big data focuses on large volumes of data, which are typically unstructured and fast moving. Business intelligence generally tends to support the visual reporting of structured data from a transactional database. Typically BI and the associated tools, enabled managers to see the activities of the organisation in near real-time. It ensured decisions were made with insightful actionable data. It took away the wait for the financial month end to delve into KPI’s and other key indicators.

BI as a game changer is an understatement but it is not big data. It was the move from excel lists to visualizations.

BI Tools and the visualization of data

Big Data to change it all

Big data represents a large step along the analytics timeline. It brought the notion of using unstructured data to the forefront. With this vendors started to provide tools and programs that enabled the extraction, storage and even creation of new data types. 

Big data’s legacy will be twofold

The change in perspective from traditional analytics.

Big Data necessitated the exploration of new organizational structures to support initiatives. No longer are data functions being automatically put into IT. We now see big data groups in Finance, Marketing and Supply chain among others. We also have data scientists coming to prominence with a focus on the end customer.

It created a new analytics stream that moved away from the traditional approach. Previously structured data was analyzed to provide insight to managers for decision making. But now it is an iterative approach feed by a continuous flow of information from various sources. 

Today we have analysts & data scientists diving into data to experiment with ideas and hypothesis, instead of structured performance reports. People had moved from being analysts to cooks, creating a combination of data that suggested a certain insight which then needs validation.

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We would all love to be part of the Big Data trend. But we are not all ready for it. A strong base of Business intelligence is a critical first step.

When we understand our internal data and its benefits the next adventure begins. From there Robotic Process Automation, Big Data and AI are waiting for us.

last word – Big data for good

The United Nations is one organisation that has embraced Big Data. As a result they created the Global Pulse to ‘get real-time feedback on how well policy response are working’. As this shows Big Data is not just for profit creation but has a clear social good.

Explore the work of UN Global Pulse on www.unglobalpulse.org