Deriving Real Business Value from Big Data

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    Making Sense of Big Data in the Real Business World

    While most of the Big Data conversation these days focuses on new applications, such as mining machine data or data generated by social networks, it turns out that from a business perspective, most of the actual investment in Big Data is squarely focused on getting more value out of existing customer data.

    A new global survey of 1,144 business and IT executives conducted by IBM and the Said Business School at the University of Oxford finds that Big Data investments are being driven by practical applications that have an easily demonstrable return on investment. A full 49 percent said they were investing in Big Data to drive customer-centric applications using mainly existing data sources. At the same time, however, only six percent said they had actually deployed a Big Data application.

    According to Mike Schroeck, an IBM distinguished engineer and vice president for IBM Global Business Services, some of the biggest challenges facing IT organizations when it comes to Big Data are going to stem from the need to derive meaningful insights from all that information. That means in addition to finding and employing a data scientist, IT organizations are going to need visualization tools that make all that information actionable for the average business user.

    In addition, IT organizations will also need to come to terms with the fact that not all Big Data is equal in terms of its value or how it needs to be managed. Data from different sources tends to behave differently, which will require more nuance in terms of how that data is processed and stored that goes well beyond simply deploying a Hadoop cluster, says Schroeck.

    As part of that effort, IBM is working towards embedding analytics functionality into almost every business process. But just like Big Data, there are many forms of analytics technologies that need to be applied to the right Big Data problem, which requires additional expertise in terms of how to optimize the investment in a broad range of technologies that companies need in order to derive any business value from their Big Data.

    While the survey makes it clear that there is no real consensus concerning what constitutes Big Data, from an IT perspective, it’s clear that organizations are going to have more data under management than ever. But it’s important to remember that the implications of trying to actually manage all that data go well beyond pointing a few analytics tools at Hadoop and hoping for the best.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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