Imagine setting up a zoo. What would you buy first, the cages or the animals?
Neither; you’d make sure you understood the market potential of opening a zoo in that area, you’d confront the commercial reality and the legislative situation. You’d also consider the supply chain, where you’ll source your animals from and your ability to manage a zoo before spending a single cent.
Only once you have the information can you make a decision on how to progress and whether or not you can succeed.
Now, consider setting up a plan to implement big data. The technology to do so is affordable and the information is out there, so it’s tempting to push ahead without thinking about the market, the legislation and the wider business possibilities.
In essence, you’re buying the cages before you know how to run a zoo; and no matter how cheap they are, that makes terrible business sense.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t get excited about big data. If we can use information gathered from far and wide to make informed or even automated decisions in real-time, it’s surely a great thing – knowledge is power, after all.
In fact, an incredible amount of money is being spent on preparing for big data today. International Data Corporation recently found that the technology and services market around the innovation will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.4 per cent to reach US$41.5 billion by 2018.
Such a staggering amount of money is difficult to comprehend. Put that into bank notes and the stack of money would tower at 4,534 kilometres high. Place that tower in Brisbane and give it a slight nudge to the west and the top will land somewhere around Perth.
And yet we’re only truly using a small percentage of the information we currently obtain today – a mere 12 per cent of it, according to Forrester research. What happens when our data doubles, triples or multiplies even further?
What happens is you put the needle that you’re struggling to find in a much bigger haystack. And if we’re counting on more information to solve business problems, we’re going to be disappointed by the results.
Instead, businesses will need to place emphasis on managing the information instead of just collecting it.
With improved business governance, accountability, information architecture and realisation of benefits, organisations stand a better chance of managing the reams of information that big data will give them access to. The alternative is information chaos without alignment to business objectives.
So yes, buy your animals (information), purchase some impressive cages (such as cloud storage technologies), but first make sure you have a business plan compatible with opening a zoo – because at the moment, the future of business looks certain to include a lot of zookeepers with plenty of shiny, overfilled cages and not much else.