What is Big Data and how can Data Visualization help enterprises leverage their Big Data assets better? Some people know what that buzzword really means, whereas others just claim to know what it means so they won’t look inferior in the eyes of others. While it is a trending topic, the reality of Big Data still remains elusive to many businesses and data professionals alike. Speaker Robert Abate, the Global Director of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, described the ignorance towards Big Data during his presentation titled “The Wisdom of Data Visualization,” that took place at the DATAVERSITY® CDOVision 2015 Conference in Washington, D.C. Robert Abate stated that the topic of Big Data, and the apparent mystery about it, could be likened to a teenage relationship:
“Everyone talks about it. No one really knows how to do it. It’s been the source of many rumors. Everyone thinks that everyone else is going it… So everyone claims that they’re doing it.”
But what is Big Data, by definition? Big Data typically refers to any large quantity of raw data that can be collected, stored, and analyzed through various means that reveals patterns or trends relating to behaviors – particularly that of consumers – which can be used to maximize a business’ potential. That was the point that Robert Abate made clear at the beginning of his presentation; his focus was more on utilizing Big Data effectively through the use of Data Visualizations.
What makes Big Data so useful to many companies is the fact that it provides answers to many questions that they didn’t even know they had in the first place, he said. In other words, it provides a point of reference. With such a massive amount of information, the data is able to be shaped or tested in any way that the company sees fit. In doing so, organizations are able to pinpoint issues in a more comprehensible form. Collecting masses of data and finding a trend within the data allows the businesses to move much more quickly, smoothly, and efficiently. It also allows them to eliminate problem areas before those previously elusive issues pull their profits or reputation through the proverbial mud.
Without the aid of data, innumerable operations, in all levels of the enterprise, could be threatened, impaired, or destroyed completely:
“Data is like the air that a company breathes. Just as humans cannot survive without oxygen, a company cannot survive without the data [air] necessary to its life. Without that air, the company would theoretically choke.”
Every company uses data; the more efficiently that a company uses its data, the more potential it has to flourish. Such truisms are not unknown, but according to Mr. Abate, many organizations have yet to really grasp such simple ideas:
“Part of the challenges we have are expressing to the business [what data can do], is how the business is really the theme. We have to figure out how to communicate and to create a direct link to them.”
Big Data, especially when used in accordance with infographics and other visual elements, also allows a company to generate those answers faster. This is ideal, because the faster that a company can generate information from their sources, the faster that they can generate their answers. Speed cannot be generated with more information alone, he said. Without someone to review that data, and make sense of it, that massive hump of data is still just raw data that holds no potential or value. Just the same, adding more eyes does not necessarily equal more spotted trends – the very same way that adding more employees does not increase productivity, but instead begins to hinder it.
So what should an enterprise do?
If an organization can generate more beneficial visual matter, then they can increase cognition. According to an analogy employed by Mr. Abate, while many individuals work, they typically only use one computer screen. But one computer screen can only do so much: it has limitations.
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