Big Data Is The New Normal


#Big Data

Now Big Data has even won a Gartner Seal of Approval, so to speak, with the publication of a new report that says Big Data is on the fast track to maturity and by 2016 it will just be data. The huge idea here is that as information goes cross-platform and vaults up in volume, very shortly Big Data will become another norm of how business gets done.

By no means will all data be Big Data - that would make no sense because there of course are key values found in certain, specific data warehouses that are quite small and structured. But there also is the fact that, suddenly, business realizes it is awash in data and it knows that if only it can harness the insights that can be derived from the information already on hand or soon to be, great value will ensue.

Big data transforming bricks + mortar retailing

Think about the recent New York Times story about how pioneering retailers are tracking customer behavior by monitoring cellphone signals -- WiFi in particular. The story triggered significant teeth gnashing by privacy proponents, and these concerns are understandable. But a reality is that e-commerce players already have enormous tracking data on their customers and it stands to reason that, finally, bricks and mortar retailers would want to level the playing field. Big data plus smartphones is an equation that works.

Put the privacy debate aside. Think simply about the information flow, its volume and the insights it would give retailers. That is very big data indeed and the goal would be mashing it up and then reinventing store layout, product placement, and in effect making it easier for consumers to find and buy what they came into the store for.

Really knowing the customer

Probably a gold standard for pursuing BIg Data is Netflix, which is well known for gathering information about what their customers watch but also how they watch it - where do they fast forward, where do they rewind, when do they simply turn off a film and never return?

But then Netflix goes farther with its data, per reporting in SiliconANGLE: “[Netflix] actually [is] putting that data to use. Netflix has begun to produce its own original TV shows, and to do so its leveraging all of its data to do it. Netflix used its data to decide that the BBC’s ‘House of Cards’ was the best fit for a remake, and its data also correlated fans of the original to fans of actor Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher, which in turn was what led to them being hired.”

Think about the power there: Big data is driving complex decisions and, apparently, it is helping get closer to what consumers really want.

The maturation of Big Data

A safe bet is that such stories - revolutionary as they sound in 2013 - will seem commonplace within a very few years because, right now, the ingredients are all coming together for a flowering of Big Data into an everyday business tool and probably 2016, as Gartner predicts, is as good a guess as any.

Certainly it will become more commonplace in many more businesses very soon, about now in fact as the first generation pioneers - with their massive data stores and new analytical tools for rapidly making sense out of them -- start to enjoy differentially superior results. They are demonstrating that Big Data works, period. It’s no longer a computer science project, it’s becoming just plain business.

The irony is that when Big Data becomes humdrum - when it loses its buzzword status - that is when it genuinely will have solidified a role as a transformational information utility. By, say, 2020 we will look back and be puzzled at how organizations arrived at their marketing and design decisions without Big Data. It will seem every bit as puzzling as, say, how organizations maintained customer data befor CRM (can you say 3” x 5” card?).

From where we sit in 2013, that future seems distant indeed. But it also is closer than we think.