The 6 Things Everyone Needs to Know About the Big Data Economy

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Big data is moving on. We’re moving past the stage where it’s something only trailblazers and early adopters are on board with, towards a time when if you aren’t analyzing data to help you make better business decisions, you’re in danger of being left behind.


Big data is moving on. We’re moving past the stage where it’s something only trailblazers and early adopters are on board with, towards a time when if you aren’t analyzing data to help you make better business decisions, you’re in danger of being left behind.

A survey this year found that 73% of businesses questioned either already had data analytics strategies in place, or are planning to implement them in the next two years. It is becoming apparent that just about any organization of any shape or size can find a data strategy to suit them. So here are 6 key facts about the big data economy you can’t afford not to know;

Big data is not a fad

A couple of years ago, when big data was very much the “word of the moment” in business circles, there people who were suspicious it was just a passing trend. That it could simply be another fad for shady consultants to make a quick buck out of credulous businessmen eager not to miss the “next big thing”.

The last couple of years have proved them spectacularly wrong. Now it exists, big data is simply too good a concept to do away with. Can you imagine ever wanting to regress to a stage where we rely on less data, and less accurate analytics? I don’t see it happening. Fair enough, we might stop calling it big data (which isn’t the most accurate name for it anyway, as I’ve discussed before). In the same way you don’t hear many people talking about the “world wide web” anymore – we just call in the internet. We might just go back to calling it “data” again, having no need for a “buzzword” label to differentiate it. But it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

More and more data is becoming available to us every second

The big data economy is scaling up, to match the lightning speeds at which the volume of data available for analysis is growing. 90% of the data available today was created within the last two years, and by 2020 it is estimated there will be 10 times more information in the digital universe than there is today.

Industry is playing its part – increasingly measuring and recording more and more elements of their operations, in the quest for efficiency. And in our personal lives we all generate mountains of data every day, often without even realising it – websites we visit track details of our browsing activities, and our  smartphones collect details on the time we spend talking to people, and even track our movements (often regardless of how we set our privacy settings!)

In fact the average household generates enough data each year to fill 65 iPhones (the 32GB ones if you want to be specific). In 2020 it is expected that this will grow to 318 iPhones. (Luckily we won’t actually have to own all those iPhones, as companies will be more than happy to store our information on their servers for us).

Big data will affect every industry and every part of life

Healthcare, finance, construction, retail, marketing, education, security, logistics – the list of uses that are being found for big data is growing as quickly as the data itself is.

And we take advantage of big data analysis all the time in our personal lives, too, even if we aren’t wearing the latest smart-watches which monitor our vital signs and activity rates and upload them to online databases. We book our holidays on travel sites which use data algorithms to find us the most suitable deals, and dating sites match us to potential life-partners using their algorithms and databases.

There is virtually no human endeavor which can’t be improved with better knowledge of the subject, and big data is all about making sure we know as much as possible about a problem or situation before we take action.

We can now analyze everything

The air around us is filled with invisible data, buzzing around the world at increasing velocity – data streams from our smart phones, televisions, credit card terminals and security cameras. Sensors are attached to vehicles and industrial machinery, and an increasing number of everyday household items such as scales and light bulbs.

We have always wanted to understand more about the world, so we have worked to make everything measurable. And as computers have become cheaper, more effective and easier to use, more and more techniques have been developed for analyzing the results of our measuring.

Although it is a slightly scary thought, it’s fair to say there is very little you can do, in or outside your home, that will not be measured or contribute to some form of statistic, these days!

Privacy is gone, but might come back

We’re increasingly willing to hand over personal details to businesses, in exchange for cheaper, faster or better services.

Most of us, it seems, aren’t worried about telling Netflix or Amazon exactly what movies they watch, when, and for how long, in exchange for more reliable recommendations about what to watch next time they sit down on the sofa with a tub of popcorn.

And we are more than happy to give supermarkets complete access to our shopping habits in exchange for small discounts on our weekly grocery bills through loyalty schemes.

This information is all tied to our real-life identity, through our credit cards or whatever details we hand over to get access to the service. It is passed on (either anonymized or not) to other companies they work with. And of course, it’s always available to governments – who have plenty of methods, both covert (spying) and overt (through courts or law enforcement) to get hold of it, should they want it.

Anything we do online – and increasingly, with the prevalence of CCTV, recording of telephone conversations and the “internet of things”, offline, too – is open to scrutiny. Which is why we can say that, for better or worse, privacy is dead.

Having said that, I also believe that at some point there will be a push back from consumers and legislators which will mean the use of data will have to be more transparent and based on consent.

Analytics is no longer a choice for any operation

If you aren’t using analytics to increase your efficiency, cut waste and make better business decisions – you are in danger of being left behind.

As I covered above, it is being put to use in every industry and arm of public service, so if you are missing the opportunities provided by the wealth of data and technology, your competitors almost certainly are.

Whether you want to go the “whole hog” and integrate an analytics strategy across your whole operation – streamlining recruitment, production, distribution, marketing and sales, or start small and explore how increasing your analytical capacity in one area will affect the bigger picture, data analytics is simply too valuable a driver of improvement for any organization to ignore. 

As always, I hope you enjoyed my post.


You might also be interested in my new book: Big Data: Using Smart Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance

For more, please check out my other posts in The Big Data Guru column and feel free to connect with me via:

 TwitterLinkedInFacebookSlideshare and The Advanced Performance Institute.

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