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Organizations looking to capitalize on big data's big potential

Companies are looking to big data to become faster and more agile. With real-time information at their fingertips, systems are able to organize that content, data quality tools to verify it and analysts to interpret it, businesses can discover unexpected correlations that prove highly profitable, according to Harvard Business Review.

In one example, a retailer took all of the consumer data it had collected for over a decade, plugged it into a big data platform and discovered that customers had been purchasing two items together at a high frequency. With that knowledge, the business corrected its merchandising strategy and  saw a 16 percent lift in revenue per shopping cart within a month, the source reports.

Anticipate problems to make better decisions
The same motivation driving big data adoption in commercial sectors - the goal of tapping into information to gain actionable insight sooner - is cropping up where public policy strategy, planning and decision-making are concerned, according to The Huffington Post.

In an article for the news provider, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab director Joseph Coughlin addresses a number of potential solutions and pitfalls that could arise if new technologies were incorporated into big data - a course of action that was recently suggested at the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory's UrbanCode Symposium.  For instance, big data could help to identify gaps in public policy agendas and make sense of seemingly mundane information from traffic signals or rail systems to identify issues and needs. However, this type of approach raises questions of public trust and privacy related to the tapping of personal data.

Rather than regarding big data as an end-all solution, Coughlin suggests that organizations use it as a reason to think about processes differently, with the goal of capitalizing on emerging capabilities.

Embrace the lack of structure
Similarly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb explained in his book "Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder" that IT departments shouldn't look at big data as a disruption to the way they do things. Rather, they must view it as a way to embrace the lack of data structure that exists, according to Forbes.

IThis approach may challenge the traditional ways chief information officers (CIOs) approachdata - by organizing it into rigid structures - but big data can make their positions much more exciting as they embrace the instability and the antifragility it brings, Taleb adds.

As companies look to gain better insights using predictive analytics and correlating unrelated data sets, they may also find they need to relinquish processes that previously garnered success. Businesses are being forced to break down departmental barriers and pool the expertise of multiple teams to reach the results they want.