Understanding ‘Big Data’ and How it Can Help Your Business

If you’re like me, the term ‘big data’ sounds like a catch-all phrase.

To help explain it better, I found a great piece by IBM (an industry leader in analytics) describing the four dimensions their data scientists use to interpret big data.

Volume. There is more data being produced now than ever before. One of the most fascinating stats
brought up by IBM is that “40 zettabytes of data will be created by 2020, an increase of 300 times from

Variety. The kinds of data being retrieved is also expanding exponentially. Social content, video
content, engagement data – business operations in all industries have become more focused since
digital analytics has taken hold, and big data will make it easier to collect and synthesize more different
kinds of data.

Velocity. The analysis of streaming data is where it gets really interesting. Big data operates through a
network of nodes and sensors within a large framework, all connected to a central hub. These nodes
and sensors can be designed to track any kind of information you want. For example, cars are now
made with nearly 100 sensors that maintenance issues in the vehicle (fuel level, tire pressure, etc.).

Veracity. This refers to the uncertainty of data. A lot of business leaders are still lacking trust in the
legitimacy of the data generated by big data analytics. There is no easy solution here, and two things
need to happen: Real improvements to the functionality of big data software need to be made, and
business leaders need to put some of the data they generate to work and see how it fares.

So, let’s say you are a mid-sized business and are not sure how, or even if, big data can be of use.

As Barbara Weltman puts it, small businesses already have the data sets required to make use of big
data – they just need to know how.

Here are some ways it can help, no matter the size of your business:
1. Customer Insights. The volume of data is certainly there when it comes to customer social
media content and search history.

2. Predict Trends. Looking at the macro-level searches and trends will help your business stay one
step ahead of the pack.

3. Efficiency. There are a lot of software programs available to synthesis all internal
communications and operations (including supply chain issues).

Are numbers important?
In short, yes. Like Zig Ziglar said, “The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does
exist.” In order to fix an issue, it is helpful to know where the problem is stemming from. Measuring
your business metrics and data are very useful tools.