As someone once said, the problem with Big Data is that it's... well, BIG.
Long before the term exploded into the vocabulary of the general public in mid-2011, industries everywhere have delighted in the fact that Big Data can provide them with much-needed insight. By looking for Big Data both internally and externally, organizations can gain the intelligence needed to become more responsive to customer needs, stand out from their competition, and ultimately, be more profitable.
Here's a quick look at the four qualities of Big Data that make it a unique tool for generating actionable business insight:
Volume: Why Big Data is Big
Everyday, people are spending huge chunks of time working and socializing in the digital world, which generates an enormous amount of data.
According to a 2014 infographic by DOMO, every minute there are 277,000 tweets posted to Twitter, 216,000 photos uploaded to Instagram, and 8,333 videos shared on Vine. Now imagine being able to tap into all of that social activity to identify how consumers are finding your website online, or how much time they spend using your SaaS tool on a weekday.
That's what Big Data is about — allowing users to access this mind-boggling volume of information and then process it in order to pinpoint actionable items.
Variety: Handling Structured and Unstructured Data
Generally, structured data is information that's highly organized and easy to search using straightforward search engine algorithms. A concrete example would be spreadsheets — information is presented in columns and rows, making it easy to search and sort.
Unstructured data, on the other hand, is the opposite. It usually consists of human-generated and people-oriented content that may not fit neatly into database tables. The best example of unstructured data: email. Let's face it, information in email is chaotic. If you had to force all the data in your inbox into the grids of a spreadsheet, you'd soon understand the problem.
And yet, Big Data can do so much more using both structured and unstructured data. There are newer, better machine learning algorithms that can differentiate signal from noise.
Look at Google Flu Trends, which is able to predict the number of flu cases in a certain country based on search data surrounding keywords such as "flu," as opposed to relying directly on health reports. It's one example of how Big Data can parse even unstructured data (e.g. web searches), resulting in a useful tool.
Velocity: Delivering Insights in a Snap
Moore's Law states that the overall processing power of computers doubles every two years. As technology's capacity grows exponentially, it allows Big Data to deliver insight to its users at a greater velocity. Data is generated in real time, so users can demand actionable information in real time. A decade ago, this would have been impossible. But today, it's a reality that is opening new doors.
Value: The Goal is Intelligence
All this comes back to the fact no organization collects data just for the sake of having data. They're doing it to derive actionable insight. This is the value you want to extract. And it will only happen if all three previous V's are addressed in equal measure: volume, variety, and velocity.
How has Big Data helped you and your organization? Hit the comments and tell us.