It seems many organizations are starting where they are with Big Data. On a practical level, what that means is:
- Organizations are expanding existing systems to accommodate larger data sets.
- Companies manage Big Data with existing staff, such as data architects, data analysts and DBAs.
Now, I’m not going to be the one to say whether that’s a good idea or not at this point. You do what you need to do.
However, as you move forward, you should probably think about whether that’s the best long-term approach for squeezing the most value out of your data.
So far, the experts suggest it’s not.
“Managing big data for analytics is not the same as managing DW data for reporting,” warns a recent TDWI report. “The point is to embrace BDM for analytics as a unique practice that doesn’t follow all the strict rules we’re taught for reporting and data warehousing.”
What’s becoming clear is that there’s a difference between BI and advanced analytics or data scientists. A lot of articles out there expand on that theme, but a recent GigaOm piece does a nice job of summing up what matters in terms of business relevance.
The piece is an interview with Joshua Sullivan, the vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group. There’s a 35-minute audio file, but you can also read a summary piece below that.
“A lot of people, they take their business intelligence users or their dashboard users and they say, ‘Well, now these are my data scientists,’ and they just kind of say, ‘I’m sure they’re doing data science work.’ I think they’re actually missing the point,” Sullivan told GigaOm.
So what is the point? BI is a bit stodgier, less experimental than Big Data, not just in terms of the technology, but also in achieving value with it.
With BI, you start with a question and you set up the system to ask that specific question.
With Big Data, you’re an explorer or a scientist, approaching the data with a general idea, but open to all revelations.
“It’s all about curiosity and then having some amount of skills and willingness to learn, I think,” Sullivan said, explaining why he hires a wide variety of backgrounds for his team, from musicians to someone with a degree in forestry management.
The point, the article adds, is “to embrace BDM (Big Data Management) for analytics as a unique practice that doesn’t follow all the strict rules we’re taught for reporting and data warehousing.”
To break it down to a business cliché, you’re not “just” thinking outside the box. Using Big Data means understanding there was never a box in the first place.