Business Intelligence and analytics: Conquering Big Data

The steps you need to go through to put your sea of data to business use

The rapid expansion of business data poses challenges for companies across Europe, especially in the UK, per Aberdeen Group's research report Business Analytics in the UK: Transforming Data into Business Insight.

However, these headaches pale in comparison to the potential business value that new, complex, and varied data sets can deliver to the enterprise. Creating this value involves three essential steps:

- Identifying the data sources that can contribute to an organisation's data repository

- Building a strong, scalable data management foundation

- Layering new analytic tools on top of the data to provide new insights.

Aberdeen's January 2012 research study on Data Management for BI included 99 organisations with at least five terabytes of current, active business data, and, that had implemented an official, enterprise-wide Big Data initiative.

The strategies and tools being used paint a picture of the current data management requirements and emerging solutions in the market.

Interestingly, the most popular data source used in Big Data initiatives has the smallest data footprint.

Structured data in relational databases, such as transactional information, while growing at over 36 per cent year-over-year, shows nowhere near the growth of other, internet-based data sources.

However, 93 per cent of organisations reported that structured data is important or very important to their overall Big Data initiative (see Figure 1).

This information forms the core of their projects, with other data sources used to supplement or add perspective to this reliable repository of sales, customer or product information.

Other popular data sources include the collection of internet-use and social media behavior statistics, which provide insights to consumer behaviour and the success of products or services.

Also, as wireless bandwidth speeds now fully support streaming video and audio, consumers now access more information in more formats than ever before.

This realm of rich media offers numerous opportunities to dynamically interact with a customer base, and for analyzing which media formats and topics engage the public.

Aberdeen's research also reveals that, when building the support structure for new data sources, the majority of these organisations shared some basic capabilities as part of their IT infrastructure.

As mentioned in Big Data, Big Moves (August 2011) data compression and data deduplication solutions are often used to eliminate redundant files and reduce required storage space.

Organisations also reported that end-users and decision makers demand the ability to control the data analysis process through self-service tools, removing the burden of delivering reports from the IT department, and allowing for employees to quickly and easily obtain answers from the data precisely when they need it.

Much of the excitement surrounding Big Data, focuses on the new technologies, currently available or being developed, to specifically manage and analyze massive, varied data sets.

To determine which of these powerful new tools provides the most value, the CIO must help the enterprise identify current needs and articulate a long-term vision for the next evolution of their products or services.

Solutions now exist to process massive amounts of data in real-time, to search and analyze any type of unstructured or semi-structured data, and deliver this information to anyone, almost anywhere.

Aberdeen's research shows that there are several major technological categories with incredible growth potential that CIOs should monitor, and determine if they can enhance their business (see Figure 2).

Organisations needing to accelerate their data-centric tasks, or quickly deliver intelligence, are reporting significant interest in the processing speed provided by in-memory technology, which Aberdeen's research has shown to be over 100-times faster than traditional tools.

Real-time integration is a complementary technology, allowing data sets to be updated with current information faster than traditional batch integration.

Getting this information into the hands of the right people is the last step in the process, and in this age of the smartphone, companies can now supply their remote or traveling workforce with BI capabilities through mobile apps and technology.

The future of Big Data is wide open and the possibilities are tantalising.

New insights gleaned from data never before combined, and delivered faster to more users than ever before, represents only the tip of the iceberg.

The role of the CIO in this new information revolution has never been more important, as it is their responsibility to manage the complex task of determining how Big Data can benefit their company, identifying untapped data sources, and selecting the technologies that are the best fit for the needs and goals of the enterprise.

Nathaniel Rowe is research analyst, enterprise data management for Aberdeen Group

Take part in Aberdeen Group's survey on master data management and get a free copy of the subsequent report

This story, "Business Intelligence and analytics: Conquering Big Data" was originally published by CIO (UK).

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