How Big Data Will Roil the Business World

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Big Data Analytics

The first steps toward achieving a lasting competitive edge with Big Data analytics.

Most businesses are little more than collections of fiefdoms presided over by one C-level executive or another. The fiefdoms these executives preside over are usually tied to some central function, such as marketing, finance or manufacturing. But within each fiefdom are any number of principalities presided over by someone who is in charge of a specific function. The one thing that all these fiefdoms and principalities have in common is that they tend to husband data, because, after all, information is power.

Unfortunately, all that power is not always constructively applied. It's fairly common to discover businesses where various units spend as much time competing against each other for control over limited corporate resources as they do trying to service customers or gain actual market share. The way most of these divisions go about competing with each other usually involves access to the latest data, which they share with their business colleagues when the time is right.

Even then, however, they almost invariably apply a filter on that data that conveniently ignores any data that doesn't serve to enhance the latest favorable trend they are trying to highlight. The end result is usually a series of presentations and proposals that are based on precarious assumptions and little data from any business unit other than their own to support their conclusions.

One of the major reasons this occurs beyond the nature of organizational behavior is because, up until now, it's been too hard to correlate all the available relevant information both inside and outside the organization. But with the advent of Big Data, that should soon finally change for the better.

Big Data makes it much more affordable to first gather and organize all the information. More importantly, that data can be analyzed in its raw form. As advanced analytics applications get applied against that unfiltered data, it's going to be a whole lot easier to identify the direct cause-and-effect relationship between business events, regardless of what department is nominally in charge of that event or the process associated with it.

Marco Pacelli, CEO of ClickFox, a provider of analytics applications focused on customer experiences that are delivered as a service, says this capability will become the single most revolutionary thing about Big Data. By centralizing all the relevant data, information becomes democratized across the organization. This not only portends a flattening of the organization, it also means that senior level managers gain a lot more visibility into the organization.


Some folks may think this will take a while to play out because the technology is moving far ahead of what organizations can effectively analyze given their ability to ingest and digest data. But Pacelli argues that cloud computing is making it cost effective to invoke analytics services built on Big Data platforms in the cloud today. That means that companies of all sizes will be using analytics and Big Data to compete much more aggressively than they do today. Ultimately, adds Pacelli, that also means it's not a matter of if Big Data will wind up forcing businesses to restructure their management, but rather how soon.

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