‘Big data’ has become a buzzword at conferences and littered across headlines of countless technology blogs; but are we all on the same page as to what it actually is? Some find the term ambiguous and distance themselves from it, possibly because of the uncertainty of what classifies as Big Data. We have come across many who mistakenly think it refers to having a lot of data on a ‘server in the back’.
It may be a misused buzzword at times, however a simple Google search defines it quite clearly as “extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions”. The applications of Big Data are wide and varied; and the analysis thereof tells a very clear story about the subject.
The challenges associated with making use of Big Data in SA
One of the biggest challenges corporates face in South Africa is the move towards cloud processing services in order to facilitate deeper analytics and predictive analysis on Big Data. Many large corporates are slow and steady when it comes to moving online for their data, with many safety and stability fears standing in the way, however without those services in place analysing Big Data is largely limited.
Another challenge in certain circumstances is the technology or infrastructure not being in place to put the insights of the Big Data analysis to good use. For example we recently had an incident circulating on social media regarding a well-known family restaurant franchise in South Africa where a customer was banned for life. While this might be effective for a few weeks, as soon as the incident has blown over it may be impossible to ensure that the process is kept in place. If the technology were in place, this franchise could use Big Data via facial recognition storage and cameras at entrances to alert staff discreetly that a previously flagged customer is attempting to enter any one of the franchises around the country.
How does this translate to a corporate use case?
Big Data can give your business a competitive advantage by giving you the ability to target a finite demographic, and not just a broad LSM. The analysis reveals exactly which products to market towards a particular customer on your website, down to a specific demographic, thereby increasing the chance of a sale dramatically.
In order to take advantage of Big Data you will need the computational capacity, which you can obtain by using services such as IBM’s Watson or Microsoft’s Cortana. These are cloud based services, so if your business is resisting the move to online computation then you have to accept that you will sooner or later be left behind by your competitors as the trend of moving online is fast taking over.
Making the move online enables you to process your data online without incurring the expense of infrastructure. However, the major advantage is in the fact that you will have readied your organisation for the exploitation of Big Data to your business’s advantage.