Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
We are in the middle of a big data arms race, and it’s gathering pace. The aim seems deceptively simple: collect loads of data, analyse it and generate insight that gains you a competitive edge. Since future success is seen to rest in the hands of the data ‘haves’, no-one dares risk being out-competed by better placed rivals and risk becoming a data ‘have not’. This is the classic scenario for an escalating arms race, with participants locked-in as much by fear as opportunity.
The world of big data is a high stakes game to play. The amount of investment being sunk into technology, and the levels of expectation generated by the media as to what this data will deliver, are such that failure to deliver has serious consequences. Most of the evidence to date appears to point to big data failing to meet those expectations. As the Economist says, “Big data has the same problems as small data, but bigger. Data-heads frequently allow the beauty of their mathematical models to obscure the unreliability of the numbers they feed into them.”
A fight to secure scarce resources is a classic feature of any arms race. In this case it is access to the analytics talent that can turn essentially dumb data into the insight needed to support better business decisions. Just getting ever bigger will not be enough. You also have to get smarter, and as the much quoted MGI 2011 Report into the challenges of Big Data makes clear, the people who can use Analytics to make a business truly smarter are in very short supply.
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