Embracing the big data world

Analysis of company data presents numerous benefits and competitive advantage in business.

Read time 4min 20sec

Big data is becoming increasingly popular in the business world. The past 12 months have seen a significant growth in adoption rates by South African companies that seek to understand the data they have at their disposal and want to gain competitive advantage from it.

As a concept, big data is continuously evolving. In essence, it describes any voluminous amount of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information. For business, think about it as a broad way to describe data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate.

While the perception exists that big data means more, it often refers to the use of predictive analytics or other advanced methods of extracting value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Naturally, increased accuracy in data may lead to more confident decision-making and the ability for companies to adopt strategies to immediate market requirements.

Five Vs and a C

Big data can be further described by looking at volume, variety, velocity, variability, veracity and complexity.

As the name suggests, volume is all about the quantity of data that is generated. It is the size of the data that determines the value and potential of the data under consideration and whether it can actually be considered big data or not. For variety, one needs to look at the category to which big data belongs. This helps the people who are closely analysing the data and are associated with it to use it to their advantage.

In the context of big data, velocity refers to how fast data is generated and processed to meet the demands and the challenges that lie ahead in the path of growth and development. Variability refers to the inconsistency which can be shown by the data at times and could hamper the process of being able to handle and manage the data effectively.

Veracity examines the quality of the data being captured and how it varies. The accuracy of analysis depends on the veracity of the source data. This leads to the complexity of the data management process, especially when large volumes of data come from multiple sources. To extract the best possible value out of it, data needs to be linked, connected, and correlated in order to be able to grasp the information conveyed through it.

Collaboration is key

Beyond these characteristics of big data, it comes to naught if there is no teamwork involved. Only recently, developers have started to come out of the back-office to be more visible in business. There is no longer the division of software teams within businesses, but how they are evolving to become software-driven companies.

Software has become the differentiator in the big data world. With close on a billion knowledge workers in the world, teams are facing increased complexity. Businesses need to manage a distributed workforce, information overload, the speed of change, and multi-device workflows, to name but a few elements. Added to this, teams crave the freedom and flexibility to work the way they want to; they want autonomy, which includes the flexibility to use the tools they are comfortable with and that are customisable.

Increased accuracy in data may lead to more confident decision-making.

This impacts big data and results in creating an alignment challenge in many companies. Disparate tools make economies of scale and efficiencies difficult to achieve. However, decision-makers do not want to stifle innovation, but still want visibility of what is happening. A balance is therefore important between autonomy and visibility.

In this environment of change and big data adoption, the cloud becomes the foundation to try and push the various components of what needs to be accomplished. Real-time collaboration is a key aspect of what companies want to achieve. The data centre of the modern business should be able to embrace these elements and empower more connected company teams that are better at solving problems and meeting customer requirements.

Businesses require scalability, stability and speed. By working with trusted partners capable of offering a consultative approach to understand the unique requirements of each company, decision-makers can focus on their business strategy while big data, collaboration, and the cloud get taken care of.

While many companies are often intimidated by the potential complexity of an effective big data environment, the benefits are clear. By becoming more efficient and adaptive to change, real-time analysis of the wealth of data available inside a company can bring a vital competitive advantage in the digital world.

The time has come to embrace this new environment and take business to the next level.

Muggie van Staden

MD of Obsidian Systems.

Muggie van Staden has been at the helm of open source solutions company Obsidian Systems for 15 years. Leveraging the Linux open source way as a driving force, Van Staden has embedded a culture of innovation, relevance, dedication and collaboration in this niche software house. As an engineer, Van Staden's nature is to solve problems in unique and effective ways. As MD, he has overseen the growth in the company in both services on offer and revenue. Outside of work, Van Staden is a devoted family man and geek at heart.

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