As organisations accumulate growing volumes of information in increasingly diverse forms – known in the IT industry as big data – they are presented with a major commercial opportunity to gain insight into their customers and identify patterns to enable them to predict future consumer behaviour.
To make the most of this opportunity, business leaders need to focus on three areas:
managing the explosion of data
accessing commercial insights
securing the right skills.
Managing the explosion of data
Data volumes are increasing dramatically. Just over a decade ago, only a small number of organisations had data warehouses that reached or exceeded a terabyte in size. Today, Netflix and Facebook both have warehouses that already exceed a petabyte of data.
As volumes have increased, so too has complexity of data. We have moved from the simple transactional data of the 1990s, which could be stored on organisations’ own systems, to diverse data sets including video, text, voice and email. This more-complex data must be stored within, outside, or between the organisation and the public domain.
To handle both the volume of data and to access more powerful analytical capabilities, organisations will need to rely increasingly on cloud-based technologies.
Accessing commercial insights
To analyse big data effectively, organisations must ensure they can access their data using their IT assets. However, the individual need for analysis varies between organisations. For example, a telecoms operator may use big data to understand how it can balance the load across a network to respond to consumer demand, while retailers will want to analyse detailed transactions to grasp customer shopping patterns and therefore predict demand.
Many companies are therefore rethinking traditional approaches to performing analytics. Instead of downloading data to local desktops or servers, they are running complex analytics in the database management system itself. Known as in-database analytics, this minimises or eliminates data movement, improves query performance and optimises model accuracy.
Securing the right skills
While technology and data volumes are expanding at a substantial rate, research has highlighted the shortage of workers with deep analytical skills to handle that data. This is a challenge resulting from both the jump in demand for these skills and also because the skill set needed to exploit big data has several components that need to be applied in a balanced way.
Executives should think about their critical appointments now so they will have the people in place to jump-start or improve the success of their planned big-data initiatives. They also need to recognise that these individuals will require investment, nurture and patience before they can handle data effectively.
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