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Are We Stuck At Big Data Base Camp?

Big Data. It’s been the subject on businesses’ lips for some time now due to its potential to improve performance across the board, delivering better results and increasing revenues. This is an unprecedented opportunity in today’s tough economic times, so why haven’t we seen more businesses shouting about the benefits they’ve seen on their Big Data journeys?

Is it simply a case of businesses keeping their cards close to their chest as they work to steal a march on competitors? Or perhaps organisations still haven’t rolled out their Big Data projects so have nothing to shout about?

Research from Oracle and Quocirca revealed that only an elite group of businesses fully understand the concept of Big Data in Europe and the Middle East (E&ME), and if the rest of the field is to catch up and start benefiting from it a huge step forwards is required. To really get to grips with Big Data businesses need a clear understanding of how they are going to approach it, yet the current reality is perhaps unfortunately that confusion and uncertainty reign strong in E&ME.

This may go some way to explaining why three quarters of organisations across the region are not attaching high importance to Big Data; somewhat worrying when you consider the potential of Big Data for business success. What’s more pleasing to see however, is that over half of the businesses surveyed by Quocirca do have Big Data on their radars; to the extent that a quarter believe they will “live or die” through how it is managed in the coming years.

By diving deeper into the findings, we see that the telecoms (61%) and utilities (41%) industries are attaching the most importance to Big Data – great news considering the volumes of data being managed by each industry with the rise of connected devices. The finding that only 31% of retail companies are attaching high importance to Big Data is a little more surprising. Arguably, the retail sector stands to benefit from Big Data more than any other industry given the valuable role it can play in enhancing the customer experience, which means much still needs to be done to explain to retailers the massive impact Big Data could have on their business.

With just 9.5% of organisations in E&ME having rolled out their Big Data projects, or being in the process of doing so, what can we do to get the Big Data juggernaut rolling?

Most importantly, we need to help businesses define Big Data and better understand how it can help them. To some people within business, Big Data is about analysing data from new sources, while to others it’s making sense of large volumes of often unstructured data. If you can’t agree on what Big Data constitutes, then how can you expect it to enhance performance? That’s not to say there’s not some savvy businesses switched onto the possibilities of Big Data. However, the sooner businesses can form a clear understanding of the concept, the sooner they can gain a competitive advantage from it.

Once this has been achieved, vendors like Oracle need to work with customers on their approach to Big Data and the actions required to reap the benefits. The reality is that current technology infrastructures will not be able to efficiently handle the volumes of data passing through them, which means change is required. Educating customers about Big Data platforms, such as NoSQL and Hadoop, will help businesses get a stronger grasp of the concept and the technologies behind it so that they are fully prepared to take advantage of it once their projects are underway.

Big Data is not simply a technology proposition, but also how organisations can structure new business models, drive into new markets and target growth more effectively. The sooner businesses realise this, and align their IT and business teams accordingly, the faster they will see the benefits. An elite group has already achieved this, but how long do they have until the rest of the field catches up?

Hopefully during Big Data Week we’ll see some more strong examples of real business results, and no doubt they will inspire other businesses to get started on their own Big Data projects.

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