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The Insight Economy: Finding Value in Big (and small) Data

Short Takes...on Analytics

Posted by Forrest Danson, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

You’ve probably seen the headlines – Big Data is this year’s media darling. While articles about big data keep coming, the marketplace may be lacking consensus on what exactly big data is and why anyone should care. In practical terms, big data refers to datasets so large and complex they can create significant challenges for traditional data management and analysis tools in practical timeframes. Big data comes from a myriad of sources and devices -- e-commerce sites, social networks, RFID tags, cell phones, urban traffic cameras, surveillance cameras, web search and browsing patterns, weather satellites and more.

Small data, on the other hand, refers to the data that comes from more traditional data sources -- the operational, transactional and financial systems inside the enterprise. Small data, then, is the data you've already been busy managing. And for many businesses, dealing with small data is enough of a chore. In fact, a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that nearly 75 percent of the corporate executives surveyed aren't getting value from at least half of the data they already own.

So why care about big data if we don’t have a handle on small data? It's not an either-or proposition. You can extract additional value from the data you do have and at the same time develop a plan for "future data" that, if acquired, could give you an advantage over your competitors. When it comes to future data, big data might make the most sense. The following are some examples:

  • Exploit faint signals: Big data can make the most of weak signals from multiple, disparate data sources so organizations can glean value that was previously unattainable.
  • Nurture experimentation: Big data can take advantage of the laboratory of the commons -- the marketplace -- to extract insight from human behavior.
  • Leverage imagery & video analytics: Big data can make it possible to gather intelligence from unstructured data, specifically photos, videos, social media and more, to provide deeper insights.
  • Deliver real-time impact: Big data's value is rooted in velocity and the ability to promptly discern organizational impact from a continuous flow of information and make applicable decisions.

While there may be no need to rush to the imaginary big data gold mine with pick in hand, there is an opportunity to move toward these new capabilities. As with any business or technology venture, extracting value from big data takes planning. Big data is a big deal, yes, but taking advantage of it starts with the small, carefully-planned steps.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.

Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

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