Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
23Mar/120

Big Data FAQs – A Primer

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The big data trend promises that harnessing the wealth and volume of information in your enterprise leads to better customer insight, operational efficiency, and competitive advantage. The marketing hype around big data and the pace of studies, analyst reports, and articles on the subject can be mind-numbing for companies that want to take advantage of big data analytics but do not know how to separate fact from fiction and determine real use cases for their business. So here’s a big data primer for those just getting in the game.

1) What exactly is big data?
“Big data” is an all-inclusive term used to describe vast amounts of information. In contrast to traditional structured data which is typically stored in a relational database, big data varies in terms of volume, velocity, and variety. Big data is characteristically generated in large volumes – on the order of terabytes or exabytes of data (starts with 1 and has 18 zeros after it, or 1 million terabytes) per individual data set. Big data is also generated with high velocity – it is collected at frequent intervals – which makes it difficult to analyze (though analyzing it rapidly makes it more valuable). Additionally, big data is usually not nicely packaged in a spreadsheet or even a multidimensional database and often includes unstructured, qualitative information as well.

2) Is it a new trend?
Not exactly. Though there is a lot of buzz around the topic, big data has been around a long time. Think back to when you first heard of scientific researchers using supercomputers to analyze massive amounts of data. The difference now is that big data is accessible to regular BI users and is applicable to the enterprise. The reason it is gaining traction is because there are more public use cases about companies getting real value from big data (like Walmart analyzing real-time social media data for trends, then using that information to guide online ad purchases). Though big data adoption is limited right now, IDC determined that the big data technology and services market was worth $3.2B USD in 2010 and is going to skyrocket to $16.9B by 2015.

3) Where does big data come from?
Big data is often boiled down to a few varieties including social data, machine data, and transactional data…

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3Aug/110

Social Media & Business Intelligence: Friends or Frenemies?

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Social media monitoring is an emerging trend that’s here to stay as the popularity of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ increases. Business intelligence is past the trend phase – it’s commonplace at companies large and small, who will spend nearly $11 billion on it before the year is over, according to Gartner. These are two powerful segments of the analytics market and the question that’s begging to be asked is: are social media and business intelligence friends or frenemies? Do they have to play along to keep the peace or do they actually go hand-in-hand?

For us at arcplan, social media and BI are two sides of the same coin, two pieces of the puzzle that is your business. For a complete picture of your customers, your brand, and your position in the market to emerge, you need information that’s collected from social sites and from your corporate data sources. After all, your data warehouse isn’t going to tell you that the off-handed Twitter comment you made last week contributed to a drop in sales unless you can associate your sentiment analysis to your sales data.

We’re all striving to “do more” with our data – to roll out ad-hoc reporting to our business users so they can take ownership of analysis, make data easier to access so we can rely on IT less, create high-level dashboards for our executives, build scorecards to manage our KPIs, master every chart type… but we haven’t truly begun to do more with data until we incorporate information from outside traditional BI data sources into our everyday analysis. And be aware, the amount of data we’re talking about can be huge. That’s why some in our industry call this Big Data – but this is a story we will review in another article.

It’s important to understand how you, as an organization, can structure social information and associate it to the other data you have about your customers. All kinds of companies – B2C and B2B – are seeing the need to better understand all dimensions of their customers – not only demographic information and purchase history, but also what they’re saying in the social space.

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