So What Is Big Data?

Data is an incredibly valuable business asset, but even more so when all the data you have on a particular topic is crunched (data analytics) into meaningful insight and actions that will then allow a brand to typically understand its internal workings, its market and customers in much more detail.

For example, today a supermarket may understand what you purchased from them if you used a loyalty card, and they will know your buying history and in theory be able to target you with specific offers, but they will be unable to merge that information with any customer service issues or enquiries you might have had with them, store competitions you have entered, surveys completed for them, website visits etc.

But it not only about collecting data about you, your visit and your purchase history that is starting to interest retailers; they also collect information about warehouse locations for fulfilment, cost to deliver, staffing numbers, number of trips to stores a delivery vehicle makes, the weather etc. This data deluge is becoming incredibly immense.

Data analytics on this huge scale is what "Big Data" (getting its name from the fact that the data that they might hold about you is big) is all about.

"Big Data" is currently just a label to explain what is going on; as we sometimes talk about "Web 2.0", but as real applications, methodologies and processes emerge, new terms will be coined to indicate a particular specialism.

Easysoft believe that there are two key drivers behind this "Big Data" explosion:

  1. Some business people are itching to get their hands on as much data as possible so that they can run their own modelling and analysis on it. Logics teams might be interested in delivery times, loading and unloading durations, do "Likes" of your product increase demand etc; Marketing types will want this single customer view and start personalising web and store visits for you, but all parts of the business want to be able to model their creative "what-ifs" more easily.
  2. Another driver and probably the key one for many businesses today is their desire to create a truly indispensable customer experience. The more they know about their customers and how best to serve them (through personalisation and having the right products on the shelf at the right time) the more you will be happy to continue to give a particular store your business.

But this isn't just for the big boys, we have computing infrastructure outside of traditional business servers so it's easy to see some Big Data technologies make it into the cloud so that businesses of any size can make use of it.

One of the biggest obstacles we see to harnessing and making good use of Big Data in business comes from the real constraints at board-level (who really owns the data), the cost of changing internal structures and bringing together fragmented sources of data. When you start adding third party, social and mobile data into the mix then more issues are being raised.

But within 20 years we see that most businesses will be using "Big Data" in some form, and we'll wonder how we ever got on without it!