Big Data, what?

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SoderbildWe have artisanal for the Hipster foodies, green for the environmentally conscience consumer, Web 2.0 for the new age of internet, and the buzzword award of 2013 has to be presented to Big Data.  We hear it on TV, read it in magazines and books, and our feeds are filled with taglines and articles talking about Big Data and the importance of using it.  Unfortunately people do not understand what it really is.  Big data is basically large, better yet, MONSTER sized sets of data that are so big and complex that it is difficult to use common software tools to process and manage the information.  It is like trying to use the human eye to find Waldo in a postcard sized photo of 10,000 people.  You may find someone that resembles Waldo, but most likely you cannot process that many faces and features with your own senses.

What we usually hear as Big Data are more precisely the analytic tools used to process these large data sets.  The call to action refers to getting the tools for your trade to utilize the “big data”, not understanding its definition.  Let me illustrate this further with an example that you can relate to.  You go to the grocery and buy milk, soda, instant soup mix, some laundry soap and a bottle of pain reliever.  The following month you receive coupons in the mail for your favorite soup and laundry soap.  This was no coincidence, far from it.   The data from your purchase was collected and used to develop coupons specifically targeted for you and your shopping habits. The grocery then used the information from your purchase, as well as purchases by other consumers, to determine purchasing trends.  This data helped the company develop sales strategies, ad campaigns and stocking schedules.

Now let me bring it back to the bottom line.  What does Big Data have to do with you?  In our day-to-day working life, we have data stored on several systems and silos and it is not always easy to access the data we need and make important decisions.  This is where Big Data tools come in. Where and what do we store?  How do we access it?  How do we get the information we need?  Sure you could build a house with a hammer and a few boxes of nails, but if you want quality you will use the best tools available to get the job done.


What does Big Data mean to you?


Cathy Andréasson

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