Any enterprise manager, or CIO, who thinks they may be able to avoid Big Data solutions, or managing Big Data, should probably read the recent research from IBM, which shows that not only has Big Data analysis become a core part of business decision making, but that for 63% of enterprises surveyed, Big Data analysis is giving them a competitive edge.

2012 Big Data @ Work

The research, which is contained in the "2012 Big Data @ Work Study" is not just about IBM promoting the massive investments it has made in Big Data and analytics in recent years, but a genuine attempt to get behind the enterprise thinking on how and why they use Big Data analytics.

Carried out in conjunction with the University of Oxford in the UK, the report is the result of a survey of 1144 business and IT professionals across 95 countries, which found that Big Data is no longer confined to IT processes and IT departments. At this point in time and for many businesses, it is a core element in their day-to-day business.

Introducing the report, its authors go so far as to suggest that Big Data is even transforming society. However, for the sake of this overview, its principal purpose is the transformation of processes, organizations and entire enterprises.

Big Data Business Edge

The starting point here must be the 63% of enterprises that say Big Data is giving them a competitive edge. We use this as a starting point because in IBM’s 2010 New Intelligent Enterprise Global Executive Study -- cited by IBM -- the equivalent figure is 37%, up 70% in less than two years.

Big Data, the survey showed, clearly means many different things to many different people, but in all cases it appears to bring with it enhanced business performance. One thing that was notable was that it is not being used in any significant way with social media.

IBM Big Data Business Information.jpg

Given the headlines linking social media and Big Data, this is probably surprising to many. However, the research shows that only 7% of respondents are using it to analyze social data, and less than half of respondents said that they collected social media data for analyses. Instead, IBM says, the vast majority are using analytics and Big Data analytics on information that is already contained in enterprise repositories.

Big Data Problems

Big Data and the attempts to analyze it has been an ongoing problem for some time, the report says, but there are two emerging trends at the moment that are making current problems and related Big Data activities different than before:

  1. Digitization: All data and information is being digitized with the result that there is large amounts of real-time data across all industries and repositories, much of it non-standardized data.
  2. Advanced analytics: Current analytics offerings are able to extract meaning from data at a level, and with an accuracy, that would have been inconceivable in the past.

In response to this changing landscape, and with the emergence of these new trends, the research found that many enterprises are taking a pragmatic approach to the problem of Big Data.

Those that are dealing with it best are those that are adopting a business first approach by identifying business needs first, then satisfying those needs and tailoring them to infrastructure, data sources and analytics availability to support business opportunity.

There are also enterprises that are using the information that they possess already, as well as deriving information from newly available internal sources, to create a clearly defined Big Data strategy -- building up their infrastructure to deal with existing needs, or perceived future needs.

Big Data Definitions

To even begin to fulfill these needs, it is important that enterprises understand what exactly is meant by Big Data. It may seem obvious, but in the variety of elements that were mentioned, it seems clear that it means all kinds of things to all kinds of people.