The term Big Data has well and truly entered our vernacular but really, what on earth does it mean?
This is one of the questions that is addressed in the Best Practice Guideline: Big Data, published last week by the Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA). I was one of the members of ADMA’s Big Data Task Force that contributed to the Big Data Guideline and one thing was clear to us early on, Big Data means a number of different things to different people and baffles many.
However, unpack the concept and common threads and characteristics appear – as Part One of the Big Data Guideline explains:
- It is data from multiple sources;
- It is data in a wide variety of formats; and
- It is data that is in constant motion.
An example of a Big Data solution given is – “the monitoring and analysis of social media commentary around service outages to help direct network remediation teams to the right location”.
“Big Data is not so much a new concept as a new label” explains Tony Davis of data-driven strategy company, Quantium in the Big Data Guideline. “Data, mathematics and analytics has underpinned human endeavour in science, medicine and technology for centuries”.
Another member of the Big Data Task Force shares the interesting insight that “the demand from business to engage with data and analytics has expanded rapidly, but organisations’ ability to access, interpret and govern that data has not”.
The Big Data Guideline tackles the definitional challenge and settles on three definitions to assist the reader to understand what that term means in various contexts. One of those definitions is the “Global Definition”:
“Big Data is the collection of large volumes of varied information, used to extend our understanding of the environment, medicine, science, business and human experience.”
Big Data seems to be less defined by “Big” and more defined by the “quality” of the data that can be harnessed as a result of the “huge variety of data sources” providing data. The value of Big Data is not so much in the raw data but the quality and value gained when selected elements from different data sources are combined and insights are produced.
In Part 2 of this blog series on “Demystifying Big Data” we will look at some examples of Big Data in action and how governments and organisations are using it.