Is Big Data a problem, or a new market opportunity? In a recent study of 125 respondents, we find that one quarter of respondents have a Big Data initiative currently. Interest is growing. Sixty-five percent of respondents plan to have a Big Data initiative within the next five years. Despite the hype and intensity of marketing rhetoric, in our year-over-year studies on Big Data we see very little change in activity of the masses, but large differentiation being driven by a few.
The IT group is more likely to see "Big Data as a problem" versus an opportunity. Seizing the opportunity requires a new form of leadership, igniting new business models and driving channel opportunities. It cannot be Big Data for Big Data itself; initiatives need to be aligned to business objectives with a focus on small, iterative projects. Technologies are evolving requiring a rethinking of IT platforms and processes invested in during the last decade. Data-driven companies - focused on the use of analytics and clean data - have an advantage.
For the purposes of this analysis, Big Data is defined as volume greater than a petabyte coupled with a growing variety of data. A petabyte of data sounds like a lot. But, how much is it really? A petabyte of data is 1024 terabytes. A terabyte of data is 1024 gigabytes. In more graphical terms, a petabyte of data represents twenty million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text or the storage of 13.3 years of HD-TV video. Twenty petabytes represents the amount of data processed by Google on a daily basis. It also represents the number of hard disc drive space manufactured in 1995.
In our survey, 15 percent of respondents have a database that equals or is over a petabyte of data. Another 28 percent expect to have a database this size within the next two years. These large databases, are usually associated with customer data and the mining of customer insights. While ERP databases are growing, only 18 percent of study respondents had an ERP data base more than 6 terabytes.
While data volumes are growing, the greatest opportunity lies in embracing a variety of data. Images, video, heat maps, GPS signals, sensor transmission, Internet of Things and unstructured data forms all offer opportunity to improve existing processes.
But, how do we get started? We recommend three action steps:
Avoid the Hype. Drive change by facilitating and elevating discussions on analytics and the use of data. Anytime that there is a discussion on "Big Data", ask for the definition and try to "ground the discussion in reality."
Form a Cross-functional Team. Composed of IT and line-of-business leaders, the team can work with a focus on end-to-end processes. This team is best led by a line-of-business leader.
Embrace the Cloud. Invest monies in new projects to understand the power of analytics to drive process innovation.
Big Data offers a wealth of opportunities. It enables market sensing, consumer listening, test-and-learn strategies, new forms of visibility and safe and secure supply chains. It's an opportunity to use new data forms and emerging analytics to build processes outside-in from the customer-back. Avoid the hype, build with the end in mind. Start with a clean sheet of paper - embrace new data forms and analytics. Begin to innovate, knowing that the possibilities are just beginning.
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