When will people get annoyed by everyone discussing Big Data?

Big Data's Tipping Point

Probably pretty soon, right?

Here’s the thing with Big Data, IMHO: most businesses, especially the publicly-traded ones, are quarterly in nature. They need results now now now. Big Data is a bit of a longer-term play. First off, you need the data. Then you need to give it a little time to suss itself out, rather than relying on one shot of data and basing a whole bunch of decisions off that. Then, you need the right people in place to analyze it. Then, you need to make sure your decision-making is contextually relevant to your analysis. All this takes time. And it’s hard to see it directly on a balance sheet. So, like social media, are we going to see a tipping point around Big Data and people potentially abandoning it as a fad?

Here’s an article on Forrester, depressingly called “Big Data Has Lost Its Zing.” Here’s one part to note:

Big data will not help you:

  • Ensure insights are tested for value against business outcomes.
  • Deliver insights at the point of decision in software.
  • Close the loop between actions, digital reactions, and learning.

You’ll need to do these things to move the needle on digital engagement. But big data will not get you there. That’s the paradox.

The whole focus of this article is that businesses are getting tired of hearing about “Big Data” (well, at least the businesses that Forrester works with) and now they want to hear about things like “insight” and “action.” That’s logical.

With a lot of this stuff, I go back to Google Analytics, which is maybe the most widespread usage point for “Big Data” that someone could/might touch. Their marketing slogan is literally “Turn insights into action,” which summarizes the entire concept for me: you look at numbers and what people are doing, right? And then you look at that for a time period and determine it’s a bit of a trend, and then you base decisions off of that. It’s not that complicated. People make it complicated, yes — and this happens primarily because (a) people don’t really understand what “Big Data” is because it’s not how business has functioned for 50-60 years and (b) our hiring models aren’t set up around it right now. You actually need people in roles where they can (a) analyze things, (b) explain things to people who don’t get them inherently, and (c) tie it all back to revenue generation and value.

Check out this, also from Forrester:

Here’s why – big data is about turning more data into insight. In fact, our latest data and analytics survey tells me that big data plans are still overwhelmingly an IT department thing. As such, they have fallen victim to supply side thinking – just furnish the data and the technology, “the business” will do the rest. Really?

This is such trademark business bullshit, honestly. Something new comes along and because everyone views themselves as “totally slammed,” they don’t want to take ownership of even a little piece of it. (“I can’t possibly add anything to my plate right now, Kent!”) But big data, conceptually, isn’t an IT thing. It’s not a marketing thing, or a “data geeks” thing, or a CIO thing, or anyone’s thing. It’s like leadership, honestly: everyone needs to touch it somewhat, because if it’s viewed as belonging to one silo, it’s going to fail.

Ted Bauer


  1. Though big data ‘s context is large by definition, it’s comprised of each individual’s specific potential insights/meaning… if each was sought out. So ownership here is a very interesting concept to tease out. I agree that no single responsibility is rational, but perhaps everyone’s ownership is essential. What say you? And again, a very interesting post.

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