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The Burden of Big Data

“Big data” is one of those trending biz terms that makes the rounds in the ample company of intimidated corporate types who have the twitching sense that maybe they’re not getting from the stuff what they might. Which is precisely what a new global IBM study has revealed.

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The study in question — the joint product of the IBM Institute for Business Value and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford — reports that, in spite of the fact that most big-ass data initiatives in which big-ass companies engage are ostensibly designed to improve the customer experience, less than half of them are including external data in the mix.

That, say the analysts, is because the bulk of these organizations really don’t know what to do with the information. For one, there’s the inherent dubiousness of social media (which makes up a big chunk of this float-y data mass) that puts them off. Where’s the credibility precedent in a status update, after all, or in a breezy restaurant review?

For another, they suffer a lack of experience in managing the material on their own. The IBM research — which polled more than 1,100 business and IT executives with a view to understanding how they’re extracting business value from big data —declared that the material is simply too unwieldy and unfamiliar for most organizations to tackle on their own.

They lack the advanced capabilities required to analyze unstructured data — data that don’t fit in traditional databases such as text, streaming data, sensor data, geospatial data, audio, images and video — they say. Indeed, only 25% of the survey’s respondents themselves feel they’ve got what it takes to evaluate the ever-accumulating vastness of such ungainly material.

And this news arrives in tandem with the finding that 63% of these same folks apparently believe that employing and analyzing these data are activities that represent a competitive advantage for them (a 70% increase in affirmative assessment of this reality over 2010).

Sounds like a case for calling in the experts.

At Keen, our data-service offerings — including data collection, warehousing, reporting and analytics — are designed to enable clients to harness intelligence and meaning from their data. The alternative, as the IBM researchers discovered, simply unearths a whole lot of promise, but a decided absence of the chops required to put it into practice.

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