In just a few years, big data has evolved from an emerging trend into a full-blown IT phenomenon. Organizations of all sizes are dealing with larger volumes of data, spread across a broader range of types and locations, compounded by the need to process and manage it all faster than before. While one might argue that the hype surrounding big data is growing faster than data itself, the time has nonetheless come for organizations to develop a proactive strategy to address the challenges caused by exponential growth in data volume, velocity and variety. Here are five steps businesses can take to get past the hype and insulate themselves from the pressures big data creates.
1 – Convert Data into Information
There’s a big difference between data and information. Data, in a vacuum, is not incredibly value. The value comes from your ability to convert data into information that can be used to drive informed business decisions. But most organizations are so overwhelmed by their volume of data that they don’t know where to begin the process of converting it into information. The answer, as my colleague Darin Bartik pointed out in a recent interview, is to start with a business question. What could your business benefit from knowing that it doesn't already know? Articulating a simple, business-driven question will help focus your efforts and make the task of converting data into information more manageable and attainable.
2 – Embrace Data Agnostically
We now operate in a world where the proliferation of multiple data types in multiple locations is the norm. Despite this new reality, too many organizations still try to confine data into a single platform, source or location, and many still make blanket decisions about which data is or isn't useful based on nothing more than its perceived value. Instead, organizations should embrace data agnostically and seek solutions that connect to all data types, in all locations. Only by embracing data agnostically can you truly discover the valuable insights hidden within non-traditional data types such as social media.
3 – Put People in Control
In many organizations I’ve talked to, people really aren't in control. Tools are. In other words, the tools an organization uses have come to define what is and isn't possible. People make decisions based on what their tools can and cannot track. Saying “this is what the tool tracks” has become a perfectly justifiable explanation for the outcome of a given analysis. Employees, not tools, should shape your organization. That’s why it’s time to embrace the concept of self-service data access and visualization. This will put the power back in the hands of your people, empowering them to use their domain expertise to make key decisions.
4 – Augment, Augment, Augment
Too often, organizations become resigned to the solutions they have in place. They know their current system is flawed, but they’d rather continue with the flawed approach than have to pay for and learn an entirely new one. And for some reason, they’ve come to believe that status quo or rip-and-replace are their only options. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Many great solutions exist now that are complementary in nature as well as designed to help get more out of the investments you’ve already made and the systems with which you’re already comfortable.
5 – Evenly Deploy Governance
Though generally seen as a function of technology, governance should be a key consideration for both IT and line of business. Respect for governance should be embraced across all functional areas, and by all users in a given big data initiative. In no uncertain terms, governance is everyone’s responsibility and should be evenly deployed throughout an organization. They key to making this happen is collaboration. When IT and line-of-business collaborate, you create an organizational culture where priorities are clear, objectives are uniform and most importantly, nothing falls through the cracks.