Bringing businesses into big data

Mar 30, 2016, 3:07 PM EDT
World airline routes. (Source: josullivan.59/flickr)
World airline routes. (Source: josullivan.59/flickr)

This week, bigwigs in big data gather in San Jose, California to celebrate #BigDataWeek, and to talk all manner of progress in the big data world. Various sessions will bring together the tech community to explore what leaders in big data have developed over the last year, what developments will influence next year’s work, and what obstacles still remain.

One of the major questions is: is all the investment in big data turning a profit? As Randy Bean, CEO of consultancy NewVantage Partners, wrote in Forbes on a recent survey of executives about their companies’ big data strategies: “…nearly two-thirds of participating executives indicate that a Big Data initiative is in production at their firms. Yet, many of these investments have yet to produce tangible business results and benefits.”

As he points out, companies including American Express, Capital One, General Electric, and JP Morgan Chase have not only heavily invested in big data, but have seen returns in the form of operational efficiency and new products and services, but what about the rest? What about all the small guys?

Big data doesn’t mean that big companies alone can benefit. SMBs stand to benefit in the form of simplifying existing systems, better understanding customers, and improving operational efficiency as well. Indeed, huge corporations have recognized this potential for SMBs. In mid-march, IBM and MasterCard formed a partnership to integrate IBM Watson Analytics into MasterCard’s payments platform to “offer SMBs insights on revenue, market share, customer demographics and competitors in a particular location and across multiple locations,” according to the companies’ announcement.

Investment in big data from both big and small companies is ramping up, and Peter Burris from SiliconAngle Media said at the conference in San Jose that the investment is coming in part because of “the experiences of the past.” 

SiliconAngle quotes Burris as describing big data as part of a bigger, “mega trend” of digital transformation: “The whole concept of digital transformation is, ‘How do I let data do the work of the business that previously might have been done by people?’”

Indeed, that question is the one to which businesses have been slow to adjust, as they have been slow with other digital transformations such as cloud. But as big data moves out of the hype cycle into a reality, the enterprise world will be forced to reckon with it.