Analyzing Big Data: A Customer-Centric Approach

The latest buzz word in business is Big Data. According to Pat Gelsinger, President and COO of EMC, in an article by the The Wall Street Journal, Big Data refers to the idea that companies can extract value from collecting, processing and analyzing vast quantities of data. Businesses who can get a better handle on these data will be more likely to outperform their competitors who do not.

When people talk about Big Data, they are typically referring to three characteristics of the data:

Because extremely large data sets cannot be processed using conventional database systems, companies have created new ways of processing (e.g., storing, accessing and analyzing) this big data. Big Data is about housing data on multiple servers for quick access and employing parallel processing of the data (rather than following sequential steps).

In a late 2010 study, researchers from MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM asked 3000 executives, managers and analysts about how they obtain value from their massive amounts of data.  They found that organizations that used business information and analytics outperformed organizations who did not. Specifically, these researchers found that top-performing businesses were twice as likely to use analytics to guide future strategies and guide day-to-day operations compared to their low-performing counterparts.

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The MIT/IBM researchers, however, also found that the number one obstacle to the adoption of analytics in their organizations was a lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business (the second and third top obstacles were: Lack of management bandwidth due to competing priorities and a lack of skills internally). In addition, there are simply not enough people with Big Data analysis skills.  McKinsey and Company estimates that the “United States faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data.;

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