Data is slowly becoming the new raw material of business – an economic input almost on a par with capital and labor. We all know that today’s world contains an unimaginably huge amount of digital data that is providing us with many opportunities which previously could not be seen like spotting consumer trends, preventing future deceases, combating crime, and so on. All this data whose size is beyond the ability of typical software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze is called “Big Data.” Every time I think about the usefulness of such a vast amount of information available, I remember a quote from Oscar Wilde: “It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.”
The biggest problem today is that less than 10% of the data created is structured and can be read by currently available computer applications. Most of the information available to an enterprise is highly unstructured – they are documents, emails, content from collaboration tools, intranet and ever-growing wikis. Timely and effective analysis of data can show real competitive advantages, and if managed well, the same data can be used to unlock new sources of many economic values providing fresh insights into solving today’s world problems.
Think about that: if all traffic data in a city is open to both the public and businesses, car rental and car-sharing companies like Zipcar can analyze the data in real-time and make optimal decisions on where they should park their cars. Business organizations are already using the Net Usage Index for Retail, an index provided by Akamai which enables users to monitor the world’s online retail habits 24 x 7, providing real-time insight into the trend of consumers increasing their share of spending on the Web. Data of this magnitude cannot be managed by traditional software platforms, so for vendors, it translates into big opportunities.
Consider India, which is going through a telecom revolution, using consumer trend data to make decisions on pricing and to throw out new consumer plans that will be more successful than previous ones.
Big data has significant potential to create value for both businesses and consumers. It is very interesting to see that most of this growing volume of data is a by-product coming from smartphones, social media sites, millions of sensors and “Internet of Things” type of technologies. The emergence of real-time location data has also created a new set of opportunities for enterprises in automobile, real estate and causality insurance business. “Every day I wake up and ask, ‘how can I flow data better, manage data better, analyze data better?” says Rollin Ford, the CIO of Walmart.
With the help of Big Data analysis and management tools, computer algorithms can now crawl through data from a variety of sources, identifying inconsistencies, errors, and fraud. In marketing, Big Data filtrations and analysis help in optimizing recommendation engines to increase online sales and product promotions. In retail, Big Data is used for capturing consumer behavior analysis and then optimizing customer micro-segmentation. It also creates opportunities for innovations in urban planning; for example, Street Bump uses a mobile device’s GPS and accelerometer in tandem to detect, locate and report potholes as you drive in Boston.
“The ability to manage extreme data will be a core competency of enterprises that are increasingly using new forms of information – such as text, social and context – to look for patterns that support business decisions in what we call Pattern-Based Strategy,” said Yvonne Genovese, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
Today, everyone is a content creator, and the data they produce can hold incredible value. To thrive in this era of Big Data, organizations will ultimately have to rethink the purpose that data holds in driving business values. These trends are just a few among many in the Big Data world which will present tremendous business opportunities for years to come.
For more on the topic, read Christophe Marcant’s white paper on Product Information Management: Definition, Purpose, and Offering, featured on SapientNitro.com.