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How companies can overcome their disillusionment with big data

Rachel Wheeler Archive

When businesses are able to effectively gather data on their customers and analyze it fully, they have boundless potential to improve their marketing, sales and customer service processes. There's a long and winding road, though, from data collection to verifiable results. Finding a significant payoff from big data is far from guaranteed. To reach that point, businesses must have tangible plans not just to gather information, but to store it, analyze it and think critically about everything it entails.

Some companies, unfortunately, slip up somewhere along the way to analytics success. If they have any trouble with big data, either with data quality or creative thinking, it may leave them disillusioned with the process. This mindset can be destructive to companies, as abandoning big data can mean surrendering the potential to save millions.

It's important that if businesses first encounter difficulties with deploying big data, they move past their troubles and plow forward. Eventually, they will realize that data isn't all hype - there's actual substance behind the buzz in today's business world.

According to GigaOM, business leaders can overcome their uncertainty by improving their technologies. Ron Kasabian, general manager of big data solutions for Intel's Data Center and Connected Systems Group, believes that it takes time to master new data technologies.

"In my experience with big data, there's no reason for disillusionment," Kasabian stated. "Big data analysis can create huge amounts of value. As with most worthwhile pursuits, it takes work to unlock that value. In the last three years, as a member of the CIO staff at Intel, I've spent a big chunk of my time developing business intelligence and analytics solutions that have resulted in tremendous cost and time savings and substantially improved time to market."

The most progressive companies are willing to ask themselves questions about their use of big data. Only by looking within themselves can they find the ability to improve.

Are you thinking big enough?
If companies are struggling to achieve real results from big data, they should consider broadening the scope of their collection methods. This can help them gather data from more sources, spanning greater distance and longer time periods, which should give them a more complete picture of the landscape. One of the hallmarks of big data is its "bigness" - companies can't limit themselves to too narrow a view.

Is your data relevant?
IT officials who run data analyses should constantly make sure they're in tune with the other departments in their offices, gathering information that's relevant and addresses the right business problems. They should seek to answer specific questions. For example - what do our sales numbers from 2012 say about our predictions for 2013?

Are you willing to be flexible?
We're living in a time period of rapid innovation. Not only are the hardware and software used in big data constant evolving, but so too are people's ways of thinking about analytics. The best CIOs are the ones who constantly stay abreast of all changes in technology and data analysis strategies. If companies are too rigid in their approach, stubbornly sticking to strategies that have been obsolete for years, it will only hurt them.

Can you connect the dots?
Businesses should be willing to think creatively and make connections they previously never would have thought to make. Kasabian gave an example - at Intel, he sought to figure out how their design data correlated with manufacturing data. He found interesting connections, and was able to use them to rethink his approach. Kasabian's motto is one of introspection and creativity: "test, reengineer, test, reengineer."