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Big Data: A CIO’s Cut Out and Keep Guide

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Every now and then something comes along that has the potential to change the face of business as we know it. Currently big data is being touted as that thing, and CIOs everywhere need to get a grip on what it is and how it can benefit their company.

The vast quantities of information people are creating and storing online, whether through social networks, blogs or other means, are creating huge data sets. What’s even bigger is the data generated by this information — a gigabyte of stored content can generate more than a petabyte of related data.

Extracting value from this data gives CIOs a golden opportunity to drive growth for their companies. That’s why we’ve put together a primer for you to show to your colleagues, teams and your CEOs, explaining what big data is and how companies are currently future-proofing their business models by implementing a big data strategy. Cut it out, keep it or pass it on.

An Introduction to Big Data

Think of it as an introduction to big data for your company and for individuals within your company. Capturing and analysing information from the enormous data sets being produced offers an opportunity for companies, informing and revealing crucial insights into their business. Big data not only affects a business’s IT infrastructure, but also the culture of a company as whole — CIOs need to be at the forefront of this change, so it’s essential that they can explain the benefits and challenges of big data across the entirety of their enterprises.

The companies prepared to build for the future are making big data work for them, improving customer relations, reducing costs, accelerating and syncronising delivery and enhancing decision making. Companies that leverage big data for business insights have an advantage over their rivals. For example, by analysing big data produced by social networks, blogs and comments, businesses can gain real-time brand perception. For more insight, the Leadership Council for Information Advantage’s report, Big Data: Big Opportunities to Create Business Value [PDF], explains how companies that take advantage of big data strategies can create a road-map to success.

In real-world terms, companies like Associated Press and Jaguar Land Rover are already implementing big data strategies. Associated Press has utilised a big data plan to simplify its IT management, accelerate content access and lower storage and IT costs, making savings of up to 45 percent per terabyte of HD video content.

Adopting a Big Data Strategy

The thought of planning a big data strategy can be a bit overwhelming for some people though. Adopting something that pervades most elements of a company’s business model is always going to cause ripples of concern. From a CIO’s standpoint, aspects such as how efficiently and effectively the data can be collected and analysed are key, along with considering the cost of collecting and analysing this data. What’s more, any strategy being considered needs to be able to handle big data’s three dimensions: volume (the huge quantities of data that are being generated); variety (multi-structured data and the disparate formats that are producing them); and velocity (the speed the data is delivered and analysed). Chuck Hollis, Global Marketing CTO at EMC writes about this sort of thing regularly and offers some insightful tips on his blog, which are well worth checking out.

Big Data: the Cultural Shift

For CIOs, a big data strategy doesn’t just mean changes in IT architecture and infrastructure — it also requires organisational change. CIOs who adopt a big data plan will have to help cultivate a new generation of data scientists to take advantage of it.

Earlier this year Mashable published an infographic, explaining how being a data scientist is the job role of the future. But currently there’s a dearth in that field and 63 per cent of data scientists working on big data projects today believe the shortage will continue into the foreseeable future. However, CIOs utilising a big data plan have the opportunity to empower employees across the board. Due to the size of the volumes of information involved with big data, the analysis is set to move to the data as opposed to the other way around. Allowing the people closest to the data to use their own analytical tools, dashboards and other information capturing resources will help change business culture and improve productivity.

The CIOs who can promote both technology and mindset shifts within their companies will find there are big opportunities within big data. We are at a unique crossroads — a tipping point — and what remains to be seen is which organisations, and which individuals, will lead this change.

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