The Three Questions to Ask When It Comes to Big Data

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Bill Schmarzo_EMCIn this special guest feature, Bill Schmarzo of EMC presents the three questions that companies need to ask themselves before diving into big data. Bill is the Chief Technology Officer for EMC Global Services’ Enterprise Information Management & Analytics service line. Nicknamed the “dean of big data,” he is responsible for setting strategy for EMC’s big data consulting business. He created the Business Benefits Analysis methodology and has served on the faculty of The Data Warehouse Institute. Schmarzo is the author of Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business.

Today’s companies know they need to leverage big data to glean powerful insights about their customers and stay competitive, but they may not be sure how to go about it. Indeed, realizing the importance of big data is only half the battle. Before implementing a big data strategy, businesses need to consider a variety of questions to ensure they will get the most out of these initiatives and deliver strong ROI. Three key questions to inform any big data approach include:

  1. Is my data big enough? Contrary to popular believe, the size or volume of data really has little to do with the value that can be extracted out of “Big Data.” A more important question is how effective is your organization at leveraging data and analytics to power the organization’s key business processes?
  2. Where should my business start with Big Data technology? First and foremost, start by understanding where and how a Data Lake can not only establish an analytics/data science environment, but also how the Data Lake can free up expensive data warehousing resources.
  3. What is the first step that my organization should take to begin your Big Data journey? Begin your big data journey by having business and IT leadership collaborate to envision the realm of what’s possible with Big Data from a business enablement perspective. This should include exploring how the organization can leverage new sources of internal and external data to uncover new customer, product and operational insights that can be used to optimize key business processes and fuel new monetization opportunities.

The power of Big Data has been lauded for years now, but without considering the above questions first, a company may not be able to fully realize the financial potential of a big data strategy. While it is tempting to dive right in, especially if you feel you’re behind competitors in the big data game, these steps are crucial and are not to be overlooked. Examine any weak points that might limit the effectiveness of big data and identify challenges to address before getting started. Understand the technical value that big data presents across the board from an analytics and logistical standpoint. Finally, determine what is possible from a big data program – what are the goals and opportunities? What can truly be accomplished with this strategy? Once these fundamental questions have been considered, you’re ready to start your big data journey.


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