March 26, 2012, 2:48 PM — Advances in analytic technologies and business intelligence are allowing CIOs to go big, go fast, go deep, go cheap and go mobile with business data.
Current trends center as much on tackling analytics challenges as they do on taking advantage of opportunities for new business insights. For example, technologies for managing and analyzing large, diverse data sets are arriving just as many organizations are drowning in data and struggling to make sense of it. Still, many of the cost and performance trends in advanced analytics mean companies can ask more complicated questions than ever before and deliver more useful information to help run their businesses.
In interviews, CIOs consistently identified five IT trends that are having an impact on how they deliver analytics: the rise of Big Data, technologies for faster processing, declining costs for IT commodities, proliferating mobile devices and social media.
1. Big Data
Big Data refers to very large data sets, particularly those not neatly organized to fit into a traditional data warehouse. Web crawler data, social media feeds and server logs, as well as data from supply chain, industrial, environmental and surveillance sensors all make corporate data more complex than it used to be.
Although not every company needs techniques and technologies for handling large, unstructured data sets, Verisk Analytics CIO Perry Rotella thinks all CIOs should be looking at Big Data analytics tools. Verisk, which helps financial firms assess risk and works with insurance companies to identify fraud in claims data, had revenues of more than $1 billion in 2010.
Technology leaders should adopt the attitude that more data is better and embrace overwhelming quantities of it, says Rotella, whose business involves "looking for patterns and correlations between things that you don't know up front."
Big Data is an "explosive" trend, according to Cynthia Nustad, CIO of HMS, a firm that helps contain healthcare costs for Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as private businesses. Its clients include health and human services programs in more than 40 states and more than 130 Medicaid managed care plans. HMS helped its clients recover $1.8 billion in costs in 2010 and save billions more by preventing erroneous payments. "We're getting and tracking so much material, both structured and unstructured data, and you don't always know what you're looking for in it," Nustad says.