|Big Data: “Big Buzz” or Real Deal?|
One might be tempted to regard Big Data as simply another buzz word in a line of buzz words invented for mass consumption but with little lasting power. Think along the lines of total quality management, Y2K, or ERP.
Resist that temptation.
Lately, analyst after analyst predicts nothing but star power for Big Data this year and in years to come.
Just for starters, Gartner says Big Data will drive $28 billion of worldwide IT spending in 2012, increasing to $34 billion next year. More interesting, says Mark Beyer, research vice president at Gartner, "In 2011 Big Data formed a new driver in almost every category of IT spending. However, through 2018, Big Data requirements will gradually evolve from differentiation to table stakes in information management practices and technology. By 2020, Big Data features and functionality will be nondifferentiating and routinely expected from traditional enterprise vendors and part of their product offerings."
In other words, Big Data is fast becoming a commodity.
A study by Alteryx shows the Big Data shift from IT to the business offices. Seventy-seven percent of the global business executives it polled want to enable more of their employees with better access to Big Data and the ability to analyze it in the context of other relevant data.
"Companies are beginning to understand that Big Data isn't just about high volume and velocity; it's mostly about the ability to get at new sources of data that provide business value," says Rick Schultz, senior vice president of marketing. "Delivering the right data to the right decision maker in a way they can understand, no matter where that data lives or what form it takes, is crucial, and companies need to make this easier in order to get maximum value from Big Data."
Yet another study, by RainStor, points to how large enterprises are adopting technology to better manage and analyze Big Data. Benefits from Big Data, they say, include better business decisions, while challenges include the sheer velocity and variety of data collection and the lack of people skilled in handling such data for business purposes.
"What is also critical for large enterprises, specifically banks and telcos, is the ease-of-use and nondisruptive nature when introducing new technologies. High standards need to be addressed including availability and security and we believe vendors offering those specific capabilities will win in mainstream enterprise adoption when it comes to managing Big Data," says John Bantleman, RainStor CEO.
Two things to point out at this juncture: the relevance of Big Data specifically to banks, and the general paucity of people trained to handle the analytics part adroitly.
A recent Aite report documents exactly how a bank could benefit from Big Data. Here's their chart on this:
Says David O'Connell, senior analyst at Aite, "With the ability to provide insights and analyses that are focused on the future rather than on the past, predictive analytics [i.e., Big Data] capabilities are viewed by Aite Group as a significant opportunity for commercial banks to improve their decision-making skills and operating results."
Sounds great, but you have to have someone to punch the buttons, connect the dots, and explain it all to the boss-and those people right now are hard to find.
SAS did a global survey of large businesses and discovered what it calls a correlation between financially successful businesses and a well-defined data strategy. It concluded that companies should prioritize business goals to determine a data strategy and hire employees with the knowledge and skills to manage Big Data initiatives.
"An organization's data is only as good as the business insights it reveals," says Paul Kent, SAS vice president of Big Data. "Mapping your Big Data strategy to address your challenges is crucial. But the importance of hiring the right people to manage and analyze your data and communicate results cannot be overstated."
Given this, it is kind of reassuring that academia is getting on board. Speaking of SAS, it collaborated with North Carolina State University to launch the nation's first analytics master's degree program. All 38 graduates of that school's 2012 class had job offers before completing the program, and more than half received at least three.
Now, SAS has similarly collaborated with Louisiana State University with a master's degree in analytics program there. In a pilot during the 2011-2012 school year, all graduates found employment within weeks of graduation, including, it was reported, Bank of America. This year's class has 20 students.
"There is great competition for talented individuals who combine data analysis expertise with practical business skills," says Kenneth Koonce, dean of the LSU College of Agriculture, which houses the Department of Experimental Statistics.
There is more. Michigan State University announced a new master's degree program in business analytics, this one in conjunction with IBM, which will provide analytics software for experiential projects where students will apply analytics to real-world business problems. Of particular interest, this will feature the use of IBM's Watson, famous for winning at Jeopardy! and which will help in applying theory to societal challenges. Plans are also underway to develop related courses for undergraduates.
"Given the large amounts of new data created every single minute, analytics skills are no longer just a requirement for the IT professional, they are becoming increasingly important for the business professional as well," says Deepak Advani, vice president, business analytics, IBM.
One more Big Data study-this one from CompTIA, and it is disturbing. It finds that only about a third of IT and business executives report being very familiar or mostly familiar with the concept of Big Data. "As expected for an emerging technology with an evolving definition, many executives are still moving along the big data learning curve," says Tim Herbert, vice president for research at CompTIA.
The survey points out that such companies need to do a lot of preliminary work just to begin to get up to speed with Big Data, including developing proficiency at analyzing web traffic patterns, measuring email marketing campaign effectiveness, and monitoring social media.
"Basic work needs to be done before many companies are ready for a Big Data initiative, Herbert says. "Many companies are still struggling with analytics, storage, backup, and business continuity."
If the analysts are all to be believed, such companies have a lot of work ahead of them. Back to Gartner's Mark Beyer:
"Because Big Data's effects are pervasive, Big Data will evolve to become a standardized requirement in leading information architectural practices, forcing older practices and technology into early obsolescence. As a result, Big Data will once again become ‘just data' by 2020 and architectural approaches, infrastructure, and hardware/software that does not adapt to this ‘new normal' will be retired. Organizations resisting this change will suffer severe economic impacts."
Predictive Analytics in Commercial Banking: Cashing In on All That Data
Gartner Says Big Data Will Drive $28 Billion of IT Spending in 2012
Big Data Brings Opportunities and Challenges, New CompTIA Study Finds
Michigan State University to Introduce Students to Analytics and Big Data Using IBM Watson
SAS, LSU launch analytics master's degree
Survey: big data strategy critical, staff shortages a concern
New Research Points to Big Data as a Priority for Mainstream Global Enterprise
New Big Data Study Reveals Need to Empower More Employees
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