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Big Data Is on the Rise

But How Fast and for Whom?

Despite the numerous and well-documented competitive advantages provided by big data and analytics, 39% of respondents to a recent IDG Enterprise survey said that, at least for the next 12 months, they have no big data plans.

Are those enterprises jeopardizing themselves by staying on the big data sidelines? Some of them surely are. Larger enterprises in particular run the risk of falling behind competitors willing to invest in big data and analytics to better understand customers and markets, create new products, and improve operational efficiencies.

For large enterprises in dynamic markets (such as retail and finance), the flexibility and agility required to succeed virtually demands a big data initiative. But for many other businesses, big data and analytics may not be a good fit or simply aren’t a competitive imperative.

Simple, Little Data

Many enterprises rely on big data and analytics to manage and extract value from huge amounts of information—much of it unstructured—emanating from multiple sources such as databases, transactional software, worksheets, browsers, and mobile devices.

SMBs, however, get “significantly more data than (large) enterprises” from email. The IDGE survey shows SMBs also handle far less unstructured data. In other words, plenty of SMBs don’t even have big data. After all, big data and analytics probably could help the corner convenience store sell more milk, but at what price?

“Avoid searching for a Big Data problem you don't have, which can only be solved by Big Data technology you don't need,” writes ITworld contributor Martyn Jones.

Not Worth the Money?

Many organizations, especially SMBs, have budget constraints that require them to target their spending toward the day-to-day logistics of running a business. If decision makers can’t persuasively argue a positive long-term return on a big data initiative, they shouldn’t go forward with one.

No Analytics Skills

SMBs typically can’t afford many specialists. An investment in big data technology is wasted if there’s nobody on the staff who can interpret and communicate analytics information to the lines of business, but it’s the rare small business that can hire a chief data officer or assemble a data science team.

And even if an SMB were willing to hire an analytics leader or team, the shortage of data scientists would make it difficult to find potential candidates or compete with large enterprises.

Finding the Balance

Despite the constraints and barriers to entry, there are obvious and desirable benefits to big data analytics—ones that go beyond buzzword appeal and job security. For the SMB or cautious enterprise that may not benefit from a full-scale assault, there do exist some scaled solutions that leave a lighter footprint and still extract meaningful analysis. The need for this balance leads some SMBs to bring in outside contributors. Cisco leads the way with certain technologies designed to aid small and mid-sized enterprises in managing their networks and data.

Big data and analytics can transform a business, but only if they are used to serve enterprise strategic goals rather than being something “we need to have” without a specific purpose. Enterprises must decide whether their business will improve by using big data, rather than deciding to use big data and expecting it to somehow improve the business.

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