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How many of us think Big Data is Big BS?

Digital world is continuously churning vast amount of data which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. Some analysts are saying that we are producing more than 200 exabytes of data each year. We've heard this so many times that managed well, this (big) data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science, hold governments to account, spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.

Over the past decade (noughties), we have witnessed the benefits of data from personalized movie recommendations to smarter drug discovery  - the list goes on and on. Joe Hellerstein, a computer scientist from University of California in Berkeley, called it “the industrial revolution of data”. The effect are being felt everywhere, from business to science, from government to the society.

"You are thus right to note that one of the impetuses is that social as well as cultural, economic and political consequences are not being attended to as the focus is primarily on analytic and storage issues." Evelyn Ruppert, Editor Big Data and Society

At the same time this data deluge is resulting in deep social, political and economic consequences. What we are seeing is the ability to built economies form around the data and that to me is the big change at a societal and even macroeconomic level. Data has become the new raw material: an economic input almost on a par with capital and labour.

Organizations need data from multiple systems to make decisions. Need data in easy to understand, consistent format to enable fast understanding and reaction.They are now trying to capture every click because storage is cheap. Customer base is harder to define and constantly changing. While all this is happening expectation is to have the ability to answer questions quickly. Everyone is saying “Reports” don’t satisfy the need any more.

The global economy has entered in the age of volatility and uncertainty; a faster pace economic environment that shifts gears suddenly and unexpectedly. Product life cycles are shorter and time to market is shorter. Instant gratification society, society which expects quick answers and more flexibility more than ever. Consequently, the world of business is always in the midst of a shift, required to deal with the changing economic and social realities.

The combination of dealing with the complexities of the volatile digital world, data deluge, and the pressing need to stay competitive and relevant has sharpened focus on using data science within organisations. At organisations in every industry, in every part of the world, business leaders wonder whether they are getting true value from the monolithic amounts of data they already have within and outside their organisations. New technologies, sensors and devices are collecting more data than ever before, yet many organisations are still looking for better ways to obtain value from their data.

Strategic ability to analyse, predict and generate meaningful and valuable insights from data is becoming top most priority of information leaders’ a.k.a CIOs. Organisations need to know what is happening now, what is likely to happen next and, what actions should be taken to get the optimal results. Behind rising expectations for deeper insights and performance is a flood of data that has created an entirely new set of assets just waiting to be applied. Business want deeper insights on the buying behaviours of their customers. They seek better understanding of their operations and the financial health of their value chain, as well as the economic and environmental consequences of both immediate and distant events.

“Every day I wake up and ask, ‘how can I flow data better, manage data better, analyse data better?” Rollin Ford - CIO of Wal-Mart

Although business leaders have realized there's value in data, getting to that value has remained a big challenge in most businesses. Friends in industry have cited many challenges, and none can be discounted or minimized: executive sponsorship of data science projects, combining disparate data sets, data quality and access, governance, analytic talent and culture all matter and need to be addressed in time. In my discussions with business executives, I have repeatedly heard that data science initiatives aligned to a specific organisational challenge makes it easier to overcome a wide range of obstacles.

Data promises so much to organisations that embrace it as essential element of their strategy. Above all, it gives them the insights they need to make faster, smarter and relevant decisions – in a connected world where to understand and act in time means survival. To derive value from data, organizations needs an integrated insight ecosystem of people, process, technology and governance to capture and organize a wide variety of data types from different sources, and to be able to easily analyse it within the context of all the data.

We are all convinced that data as a fabric of the digital age underpins everything we do. It's part and parcel of our digital existence, there is no escape from it. What is required is that we focus on converting big data into useful date. We now have the tools and capabilities to ask questions, challenge status quo and deliver meaningful value using data. In my opinion, organizations and business leaders should focus more on how to minimise the growing divide between those that realise the potential of data, and those with the skills to process, analyse and predict from it. It's not about data, it's about people. The real innovation in big data is human innovation.

"The truth is, that we need more, not less, data interpretation to deal with the onslaught of information that constitutes big data. The bottleneck in making sense of the world’s most intractable problems is not a lack of data, it is our inability to analyse and interpret it all." - Christian Madsbjerg

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