What is Big Data – and why does it matter to an organisation?

“The term ‘Big Data’ has been around for a long time and arguably the concept has been around for even longer, with anecdotal evidence placing its first use around libraries running out of space for books during the 1940s.

However, Tim O’Reilly is often regarded as the individual who first used the term Big Data as we know it now in his seminal work ‘What is Web 2.0?’ and who defined it as large data sets that are almost impossible to manage using traditional business intelligence tools.

This data can come from numerous systems both internal and external to the organisation and can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured in nature. As such, organisations can quite often have much more data at their fingertips than they realise and moreover this data usually also contains information about their; citizens, staff, customers and internal processes/operations. However, at the moment this data often resides within disparate silos and legacy applications and so isn’t being utilised to its full potential.

It isn’t so much the volume of data that matters, it is more what is being done with that data, what analysis is applied and how is it used to generate insights that can lead to more informed decision making and better business outcomes. From front line workers through to CEOs, every decision is scrutinised and each investment looked at from an ROI and business outcomes perspective. Having the ability to analyse your data to present recommendations is a truly powerful tool to help drive your organisation forwards.

A great example of where Big Data has demonstrated its value is in how Google tracked the spread of flu via its GFT web service two weeks faster than the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention by tapping into the data generated by search results. This just demonstrates how applying a logical analysis to data can help drive not just organisation wide but often worldwide benefits.

But how do organisations get the value out of their data? How can you use data better to help drive the outcomes that help your organisation, be it to improve patient care, deliver enhanced citizen or student services or provide general efficiency savings?

This outcomes based approach to data is something that we will be exploring more in this series of blogs. If you can’t wait that long and would like to talk to someone about how data can help your organisation or how you can extract the greatest value out of the data you have, please contact [email protected].”

Ben Gannon – Data and Ai Specialist, Phoenix Software