All the digerati buzz about big data and big data analytics may have caused some companies to wonder about the change in business brought on by the significant massive influx of information from the web, mobile devices, sensors and the social web into corporate networks.
O’Reilly Media contributor Edd Dumbill takes a step back from the hoopla to provide an interesting take on where big data fits in the overarching digital landscape.
For anyone still dismissing big data and big data analytics as a phenomenon pertinent only to the web behemoths Amazon, Google and Facebook, Dumbill likens the information technology ecosystem that has transferred paper-based processes like payroll and inventory to the computer as a supporting “digital exoskeleton” within corporate confines.
But big data generated from the web has altered the entire anatomy of information technology within business, he notes.
“Customer interaction, payments and often product delivery can exist entirely within computer systems,” Dumbill says. “Data doesn’t just stay inside the exoskeleton any more, but is a key element in the operation. We’re in an era where business and society are acquiring a ‘digital nervous system.’”
What will a business that has a digital nervous system look like? Dumbill asserts that the key attribute will be having a digital feedback loop.
“That is, a direct connection from sensing and monitoring inputs through to product outputs,” he notes. “That’s straightforward on the web. It’s getting increasingly easier in retail. Perhaps the biggest shifts in our world will come as sensors and robotics bring the advantages web companies have now to domains such as industry, transport, and the military.”
But bridging the disconnect between companies that are embracing big data as the digital nervous system central to bolstering business and those still questioning the value of big data can be daunting.
Concrete examples can help highlight the importance of a well-honed digital nervous system, notes Forbes. For example, a company loses more than $100 million in three days when traders act on fluctuating commodities prices quicker than the company could.
“If companies could keep pace with the real world in processing their data, they could save a ton of money,” Forbes notes.
Companies and industry pundits aiming to explain the big data benefits can take a page from Apple’s corporate playbook.
“Apple showed up with products that were simple and elegant, and gave us what we didn’t even know we wanted,” according to Forbes. “The company didn’t bother us with what was inside. Through creative advertising, they showed us how happy and cool we would be if we used their products.”
The more quickly and nimbly companies can embrace the paradigm shift required by the tsunami of big data, the more likely they’ll be to keep pace with the growth of the market overall, according to Deloitte.
Just three years ago, there were only a “handful” of big data projects underway in corporate America. By the end of the year, 90% of the Fortune 500 will have projects underway to mine big data for actionable insight, Deloitte notes.
“A disciplined, targeted approach to big data – one focused on answering very specific questions for the business – is one that many companies can probably take on today without abandoning their current efforts,” according to Deloitte. “Big data’s potential is likely to pivot on context: when organizations recognize that big data’s ultimate value lies in generating higher quality insights that enable better decision making, interest and revenues should accelerate sharply.”
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