The downside of ignoring big data

Director, Marketing, Big Data, IBM

At a recent IBM Big Data Integration and Governance Forum one of the questions from the audience was “Why do I need to do big data—what if I ignore big data?” 

It is certainly reasonable for organizations today to try and figure out how they will exploit big data for competitive advantage. We often find that this is the reason for attending: to learn about use cases, hear what other organizations are doing and to learn from IBM, Forrester, our clients and our partners. But, I think implicit in this question is general confusion around the term big data and what it means. The term big data is pervasive, but still people are confused because they think it means you must be a large conglomerate with petabytes of data to take advantage of it. There is the notion too that "my organization may not have big data" or that "big data is not for us.” 

Rising volumes of data in all of our systems present a challenge for all organizations, but we survey attendees and rarely do they cite volume as a top concern. What they do cite as a top concern, however, is the variety of data. Big data and analytics are being used to deepen customer and citizen engagement and find entirely new sources of revenue by combining data from both inside and outside the enterprise. This includes not only traditional relational data, but also raw, semi-structured and unstructured data from web pages, web log files (including click-stream data), search indexes, social media forums, e-mail, documents, sensor data from active and passive systems and so on.


What commercial enterprise or government entity can’t gain value from taking advantage of these information sources? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would your organization benefit from a deeper understanding of customer or citizen sentiment from both internal and external sources?
  • Does your organization need to enrich your security or intelligence system with under-leveraged or unused data sources (video, audio, smart devices, network, telecommunication, social media)?
  • Are you unable to relate raw data collected from system logs, sensors or click streams with customer and line-of-business (LOB) data managed in your enterprise systems?
  • Are you able to analyze all of your machine data and combine it with enterprise data to provide a full view of business operations?
  • Are you leveraging structured, unstructured and streaming data sources required for deep analysis?

The fact is, big data is happening and those organizations that don’t have a strategy will be left behind. It’s not a question of whether your company should invest in big data initiatives, it’s really a question of “where should I start?”

Organizations we talk to report that the use of big data and analytics is creating competitive advantage. If you ignore big data you risk being left behind and becoming a dinosaur. What do you think? Should businesses ignore big data? What’s hindering businesses from making big data investments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.