Big data can be a big disappointment. As TIBCO CMO Lori Wright explained, it's hard to find the value in complicated, ginormous and ever-growing masses of information about everything from "weather to social sentiment."
So maybe it's time to start thinking about something else — something that may be a more meaningful piece of the data-fueled puzzle. "Fast data," she said.
In this information intensive, hyper-connected, data-driven world — where right time business insight can separate the movers from the losers — speed thrills.
"How do you find the data you need at the moment it’s needed? You speed it up," Wright told CMSWire. "Fast Data that’s filtered and delivered to the right place as quickly as new information arrives solves the (slow) big data problem."
Breaking Big Data into Pieces
The best definition of big data I ever heard was simple and more accurate than any other description. "It’s the stuff we used to call 'a whole lotta data,' " said a presenter at a conference I attended a few years ago.
He wasn't joking. Big data attained its status as an epic buzzword before anyone bothered to agree on a definition. So what is it anyway?
You've probably heard of the three big data V's -- volume, velocity and variety. And now there are fourth, fifth and potentially more V's, too, like veracity and value.
More often than not, we focus on volume. Yep, big data is big. Or is it?
Bruno Aziza, CMO at Alpine Data Labs, a San Francisco-based provider of advanced analytics software, thinks otherwise. In a blog post titled "Why I don’t buy the hype about 'big data'," he argued that big data does not necessarily have to be big.
Rather, he wrote, big data needs to be refined and redefined. "We need to approach big data differently, and design solutions that allow smaller companies [to] take advantage of this opportunity," he wrote.
What if, instead of focusing of the proverbial 3 V’s (velocity, volume and variety), we tried something like this: 'Big data is a subjective state that describes the situation a company finds itself in when its infrastructure can’t keep pace with its data needs.'"
What if we stopped worrying less about size (aka volume) and more about speed (velocity)? And that brings us back to what Wright wants business to do.
Now, Now, Now
To extract real value from big data, businesses have to do more than capture it: they need to continuously process and analyze that data in real time to gain instant awareness and take instant action. Wright's not the first to say that.
Fast data is a priority at plenty of companies, including Oracle and IBM. Forrester defines it as "Any business intelligence, metrics or other operational data that is updated from the source continuously, or at the very most, every few minutes." Or, more simply, "really urgent analytics."
And as early as two years ago, global analyst firm Ovum acknowledged fast data had gone mainstream.
In fact, you could describe capitalizing on real time data as an almost universal goal of everyone from marketers to analytics software vendors.
But Wright has really embraced the fast data mantra. In fact, it's the focus of TIBCO's Transform 2014 technology conference, which will kick off April 28 in Houston with a specific focus on the energy industry. The conference series will continue in cities around the world between April and June, and include a broad and diverse set of industries. As the conference marketing notes:
You have massive amounts of data, but what good is it if you can't access, analyze, and learn from it? What good is it to make the right decision, only after the opportunity has passed?"
Here's the bottom line. Data is as perishable as the food on a supermarket shelf. Businesses have to use it (now) or lose it. "Data is time based, and when businesses fail to use it promptly, then they've lost money," Wright said.
Fast Data: The CMO's 'Silver Bullet'
When Wright joined the Palo Alto, Calif.-based software provider as CMO last November, she said she wanted to make sure "the right people around the world know what the TIBCO portfolio can do for them."
TIBCO likes to boast that its products deliver the Two-Second Advantage — "the ability to capture the right information at the right time and act on it preemptively for a competitive advantage." So it's not surprising Wright has jumped on the fast data bandwagon.
Businesses need "a constant and accurate stream of events that tell the full, dynamic story of what is going on in real time, both with customers and with events taking place in and outside of the business," she wrote in a recent blog post.
Real time information — otherwise known as fast data — is the CMO's "silver bullet," she contends. It elevates the decision-making power of CMOs and drives customer loyalty, improved bottom lines and a stronger competitive advantage. She continued:
What we've zeroed in on is the concept of fast data as a component of big data. It’s not just about finding the needle in the big data haystack. It's about understanding all the complex things happening around that data, and finding it fast enough for actionable insights."
Bet on It
Wright said you don't have to look any further than the betting industry to understand the power of streaming, real time data. "About 80 percent of global betting now happens after a sporting event begins," she said.
Odds are updated the instant horses round a curve or a bad play is made in a soccer game, she explained, and constantly reset throughout an event.
Wright said integration, analytics and real time event processing deliver fast data for smarter decision-making and execution, "without missing a goal, point, offer or sale."
Better Customer Experiences
Fast big data will lead to more efficient, real time report generation and analytics queries. Fast data allows organizations improve their response times to customers, which answers the ultimate question of improving the customer experience."
Just last month, ParStream was named a “Big Data Trailblazer” in the global Tech Trailblazers Awards, an independent institution which recognizes innovative and entrepreneurial enterprise IT solution providers.
Like Wright, Hummel thinks big data is too broad — and that smart businesses will zero in on fast data to get the insight they need, at the moment they really need it. Do you agree?