Even the best sometimes whiff at what really matters. Today, it’s eWeek and Gartner.
eWEEK’s Big Ideas about Big Data (8/15/11) Big Data definition, “with help from research firm Gartner:” “Big data refers to the volume, variety and velocity of structured and unstructured data pouring through networks into processors and storage devices, along with the conversion of such data into business advice for enterprises.”
That’s like saying “New ideas come from electricity moving among brain cells.” It’s correct, but emphasis is wrong. It makes sense an IT-oriented firm like Gartner would focus on speeds, feeds, and infrastructure, but executives need a different view.
Let’s be clear, Big Data is NOT simply dealing with a lots data! I sympathize with colleagues who hate the name. After all, 1,000 movies is a Petabyte. But 1,000 movies is not a Big Data problem. On the other hand, I just spoke with the CTO of a top Pharmaceutical firm. They have a serious Big Data initiative…and the total data fits on a single hard drive.
So what IS Big Data? NEW meaning from NEW sources
Big Data is finding new meaning from new data sources. New meaning that was never practical to find before—because of scale, data format, distribution of data in may locations, the fact that no one thought of looking before, etc. Sources from Lego store purchase patterns to iPhone GPS info. From automobile traffic patterns to internet data traffic patterns. From weather to earthquakes. From tech support response times to medication response times. It is EASILY as much a new mindset as new technology. NEW meaning from NEW sources.
Why should you care? Because just for a start, businesses can learn what to offer and to whom. When to offersomething new and through what channels. Which employee can best solve a problem and when to get outside help. Which competitor will win and when their stock price will reflect the victory. I’ll go out on a limb here: I consider Big Data the most important thing for business since the Internet. (Feel free to tell me I’m off-base in comments!)
The hard part: Where to start? When something will change everything, where do you start? CIOs think about data storage, clusters, Hadoop, and data sources. Marketers think of customer behavior, influence patterns, and traffic flows. CEOs and CFOs think about ROI on (what will clearly be) new infrastructure and staffing.
When the internet was born, it was—truly—a baby. We all grew up with it. When it was small, we did small things. As it grew in power and reach, we did bigger things.
The birth of Big Data is different
The birth of Big Data is different from the birth of the Internet because the data explosion is already here. The information to refine or reinvent your industry probably exists (although it too will expand enormously in the coming years). What will you do? Will you wait until the field it fully baked and play me-too with competitors? Or will you accept that Big Data is a new way to think about decisions?
A favorite saying is, “When the paradigm shifts, everyone goes to zero.” Another is “when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Both apply. Please comment and let us know how you are responding.
- Gather at least a cocktail party understanding of Big Data implications for your field…now.
- Reflecting on data already being collected in your field (or fields affecting you) and how deeper understanding can change your decisions…or even your approach to how companies compete.
- Start writing down the sort of questions capable of changing how companies compete in your field. You’ll be able to answer them sooner than you may think. Hint: Start with “Why do…?”
QUESTIONS for 9/19/11 #UsGuysChat (This is our first time hitting this deep topic, so may not get to all depending on conversation flow.)
Q1 [quick one]: How many discussions have you been in on Big Data? (This is my first, several, many, so many that I avoid them now)
Q2: What does “Big Data” mean to you?
Q3: In what FUNCTIONS do you expect Big Data to have the greatest impact?
Q4: In what INDUSTRIES do you expect Big Data to have the greatest impact?
Q5: What should we do or learn now (tech, new types of questions, key players, etc.) to prepare for the rise of Big Data?
Q6: How can we best help others to understand the implications of Big Data?