Commentary by Dan Berthiaume
Looking back on the Big Data webinar BPO Outcomes was fortunate to host last week that featured great speakers from Alsbridge and Capgemini, I am struck by how quickly Big Data has grown from a niche concern of hardcore tech geeks to a mainstream business issue. While results of a live online poll showed that only 15% of attendees are fully operational with business analytics, 85% show interest.
Big Data literally surrounds us. Social networks, mobile devices, sensing technologies (such as the RFID chips that are silently transmitting information about a wide range of products in warehouses and on store shelves), and other applications which were uncommon or pure science fiction a few short years ago are now producing data near the yottabyte (one quadrillion gigabytes) level, according to webinar panelist Ben Trowbridge, CEO/Founder of advisory firm Alsbridge. Big Data also figuratively surrounds us.
When I attended the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last month, I was struck by three trends permeating every presentation and every discussion conducted or overheard in the hallways and exhibit floor of the Hynes Convention Center. These were the efforts by companies to create fully operational internal social networks, the ascendency of Twitter (a major Big Data contributor) as a means of quick communication and commentary among tech professionals, and the existence of Big Data itself as the major opportunity and challenge confronting business today.
And Big Data is not just for IT geeks. As detailed by Trowbridge and Capgemini BPO Analytics Solution Director Terence Sandiford during their presentations, analyzing the Big Data created by and surrounding business processes can result in benefits including faster and better informed decision cycles, product R&D supported by real-time customer feedback, better prediction of future events, and substantial improvements to profits resulting from fewer errors and increased efficiency.
Some may argue that Big Data is essentially the same problem that has always faced organizations trying to make sense of their business processes, just on a larger scale, and that the same human intuition and knowhow that has always informed decisions can still do the trick. This kneejerk response fails to recognize the truly massive quantity of data that now surrounds your business processes. However, it is important to note that the use of advanced analytical technology does not eliminate or replace the need for good old human judgment and experience.
As MIT Principal Research Scientist Andrew McAfee explained during an Enterprise 2.0 conference, although machines can now outperform humans by a significant degree in most analytical activities, the best results of all come when human intuition and experience is combined with the truly awesome processing power of today’s analytical software. So hopefully if you are not among the 15% who are fully operational with business analytics, at least you are among the 85% show interest. Because another wave of consolidation is coming, and this time it’s the 15% of organizations with no interest in business analytics who will find themselves swallowed by competitors who may not even be bigger, but are smarter.