Big Data for dummies

Unless you have been living without an
internet connection over summer, you would have heard of the term Big Data. But
what exactly is Big Data, and why should you care?

Even if you dismiss it to be a fad, it
would be hard to begrudge the attention it is starting to generate among the data
and direct marketing community, who are well overdue for some marketing

is Big Data?

Wikipedia tells us it is “…a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes
difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional
data processing application”.

internet has been described as the greatest generator ever of data about human
behaviour, as over two billion people use it and most of their behavior is able
to be analysed. Add to that mobile GPS data and transaction data, and you get
to over 2.5 quintillion* bytes of data being created every day. So much so,
that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in just the last two

we have a lot of new data sources and exponential growth of data being
generated. And by including these new data sets and taking a higher view than
existing transactional and behavioural data we can spot new business trends,
patterns and information.

help explain how it can be used, take a simplified example of a bank and what
happens when an angry customer closes their credit card. The existing data set may
look at the customer’s account and what decision the bank should take next with
that customer. By
taking a Big Data view, the bank could now look at that customer’s social network
of friends and consider what further customers may also now be ‘at risk’ of
closing their account.

Pathological Excess

is not just old folk who are at risk of becoming compulsive hoarders. There is
an inherent risk with all these new data sources available that we can become
too focused on the collection and storage of this data, rather than the using
of it. To
avoid this, make sure you have clear usable outcomes agreed before collecting
any new forms of data.

Is it for you?

is probably only a handful of companies in New Zealand that could use Big Data principles
to add depth to their current strategies. They know who they are and most of
them will be progressing down this path already. 

most, I would advise that it is far better to actually use some of the
data you already hold before seeking out new

you are determined to look at Big Data, I’d recommend that you involve specialist
data strategists to ensure that an external view is part of the process and to
act as champions against any hoarding tendencies. And
remember that you don’t really want data, what you want is information.

*a quintillion helps put your ISP data cap
into perspective. 

  • Darryn Melrose is the principal consultant
    at Strategico and can be reached at [email protected]

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