Originally Posted February 2013
When you are next on a coastal walk, standing on a beach or on a ship, consider for a moment the enormity of what surrounds you.
Specifically, I refer to the ocean. It is vast covering 72% of the earth surface, not to mention the depth of the Pacific. Apart from all the water it is full of aquamarine life forms. Have you ever considered counting, naming and categorising all the species? Do you know exactly where to find a Yellow fin Tuna and how to catch one? Once you have caught one, do you have a customer or know where to take it to market?
As a metaphor, this is perhaps not perfect, but it does go part way to understand the challenges of Big Data.
A huge “ocean” of information that is growing exponentially each day and there are mind numbing statistics that attempt to provide a scale so that we can grasp the quantity. Number of 64 GB Apple iPad devices needed for storage, data produced just today versus the whole of 1900’s put together, if it was printed how many rain forests would be required and so on.
That is just the quantity, what about the variety? Information is coming from countries, different cultures and if conspiracy theorists are to be believed even outer space. Not only that, there is a real “species” mix to manage and analyse; made up of text, numbers, links, #tags, images, sounds and even this blog.
So, quite mind boggling!
We are told that information is king. By accessing this information, we will find intelligence to help our businesses grow, perhaps achieve higher education grades or maybe even just amuse us. So, the intelligence is there, after all it is “Big Data” but how do we effectively get at it?
Here are my top 5 tips, in no specific order.
One of the old adages regarding reporting was; know what you want to find out before you start collecting the data. Big Data has turned this on its head, it is out there and has noted above, largely unstructured. The first step is focus. Start by considering your business strategy to understand what it is you need to achieve, what is important. This will introduce a plan and structure allowing optimisation of the search process.
2) Avoid Distraction
We have all browsed the internet for specific research purposes. How many of us started looking for specific information but ended up on a tangential course to a point of little value. A personal recent search to identify the best most sensible family car actually revealed that the 1970’s Jensen Interceptor had an engine capacity 6276cc with a MPG of less than 15, plus it looked great in dark metallic blue! So, focus on the point of the exercise, be specific and only stray if necessary.
3) Where to Look
As discussed there is a huge variety of information. Understanding your strategy should align you with pot of intelligence that is of most use, where to look in order to avoid the noise. The effective use of Twitter for instance; following people that have something insightful to say and who will contribute links to valuable resources. An IT expert is interested in the latest analytical technologies and sharing this with their followers, so why would you be interested in what celebrity has for breakfast.
4) Tools to Use
Research the internet and you will find some powerful tools to use, many of which are free. You many even find a cool Interceptor in blue. As with the Jensen, be mindful that you often get what you pay for – powerful tools such as Adobe Social maybe expensive but with insightful results the ROI could be high. Ultimately, identify tools that connect with the desired strategic intelligence that is intuitive to use and will generate simple to understand insight. Complication equals cost!
5) Make it Repeatable
Efficiency is critical to a business. Being able to access intelligence in real time manner, quickly and intuitively will enhance your ability to proactively respond to your market. To achieve this, the process used to exact the information should be repeatable perhaps even using just a click of a button or better still automated via your desktop. You will have more time for the important task of growing your business!
This is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Whilst you consider the depth of your ocean, here is a cool blue car to look at..!
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