By Alan Radding, Big4.com Guest Blogger
Is there a consultant out there who hasn’t heard of Big Data? Most probably can’t program map/reduce, the code behind Hadoop, but that’s not the point. The vendors will take care of that. Still, there is much left for consultants to do. The big action will be helping clients capitalize on the analytics possibilities, recognizing worthwhile insights, and putting them into action.
Big Data has become the latest rage and a survey by the IBM Center for Applied Insights shows why. Organizations that make extensive use of data analytics experienced up to 1.6x the revenue growth, 2.0x EBITDA growth, and a 2.5x stock price appreciation compared to their peers. And what they are analyzing now is Big Data, a combination of structured data found in conventional relational databases and unstructured data pouring in from widely varied sources.
How big is Big Data? By 2015 the digital universe, as forecast by IDC, will hit 8 zettabytes (ZB). (1ZB = 1021 bytes, one sextillion bytes). Adding to the sheer volume is the remarkable velocity at which data is created. Every minute 600 new blog posts are published and 34,000 Twitter tweets are sent. If some of that data is about your clients or their brand, products, customers, competitors, or employees shouldn’t they know?
Large organizations, of course, can benefit from Big Data, but midsize and small businesses can too. A regional pizza shop chain needs to know the consumer buzz about their pizza as much as
Domino’s. In that sense, Big Data needn’t be big.
Big data encompasses both structured and unstructured data. The data comes from a variety of sources. Traditional systems contain predominantly structured data. Unstructured data comes from general files; from smart phones and mobile devices; from social media like Twitter, Facebook, and others; from RFID tags and other sensors and meters; and even from video cameras. All can be valuable to organizations in the right context.
Since you are not likely coding map/reduce you will need appropriate tools and technology to leverage Big Data. Earlier this month, IBM introduced three task-specific Smarter Analytics Signature Solutions. The first addresses anti-fraud, waste, and abuse by using sophisticated analytics to recommend the most effective remedy for each case. For example it might recommend a different letter requesting payment in one case but suggest a full investigation be opened in another.
Another Signature Solution focuses on next-best-action. This uses real-time analytics across various data to predict customer behavior and preferences. It then recommends the next best
action to take with regard to a customer, such as to reduce churn or sell more products.
The third Signature Solution, dubbed CFO Performance Insight, works on a collection of complex and cross-referenced internal and external data sets and applies predictive analytics to achieve increased insight, visibility, and control over financial performance along with predictive insights, root-cause analyses, and more. These are delivered via an executive-style dashboard.
IBM isn’t the only IT player to jump on the Big Data bandwagon. EMC has put a stake into this market. Oracle, which has been stalking IBM for years, also latched onto Big Data through Exalytics, its in-memory analytics product similar to IBM’s Netezza. Of course, small players like Cloudera, which early on staked out Hadoop, the key open source component of Big Data, also offer related products and services.
For consultants, it is worth getting familiar with Big Data and the resulting analytics. Expect it to continue as an important issue for some years to come.
Alan Radding researches, analyzes, and writes about business and technology. He has worked with leading research and consulting firms including Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (Center for Business Innovation).