Does your company have more data than you know what to do with? Is your company planning on acquiring more data? Do you wonder what terms like Business Intelligence and Big Data mean?
It can be overwhelming to utilize data to its fullest potential, with so much of it coming from so many sources. The aim of this article is to examine the main differences between Big Data and Business Intelligence, so that you can begin to make an educated judgment about what your situation calls for.
What is Big Data?
Big Data is a term that describes the huge growth in the amount of data, both structured and unstructured, that organizations encounter. The key here is ‘unstructured’ data. Unstructured data is data that is not organized in a pre-defined manner. A lot of this unstructured data can be gleaned from social media in the form of posts, tweets, pictures, and videos.
Unstructured data cannot be analyzed using traditional data analysis techniques due to its rough nature, but analysis of this data can lead to better opportunities through an increased understanding of customer behavior. For example, if you run an online retail shop, and your analysis reveals that some of your customers care about the environment, then you can create a targeted email campaign to promote eco-friendly products.
Business Intelligence isn’t the same as Big Data
Big Data has become a buzzword. You may have huge volumes of information but simply assuming this means you possess big data, and moving forward to apply Big Data technologies, could be a mistake. It is possible that your competitors and the market are pushing you to believe that you are losing out if you don’t focus on big data. Instead of focusing on gathering more data, you might want focus on gathering the right data, big or small.
If you are planning on investing in a major data project, you must give a lot of thought to what you are trying to achieve with a data project. What is your business case? Are you trying to make your internal operations more efficient? Are you trying to determine the spending habits of your target customers? Determining if Big Data is the solution you need starts with a solid business case. Start with the problem you are trying to solve and then decide if Big Data is the right solution. Don’t let industry buzz around ‘Big Data’ dictate the solution and cause you to lose sight of the actual problem.
Try answering the following questions to begin to build your business case:
- Are we trying to measure our company’s overall performance?
- Are we trying to determine if we are making progress towards predefined goals?
- Are we trying to better understand the data we already have in core business systems such as CRM, ERP, and finance?
- Are we trying to make the insights from the data available to key decision makers in a user-friendly, self-service type technology?
If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, then what you probably need is traditional Business Intelligence.
When do I need Big Data?
The key difference between traditional BI and Big Data is this: traditional BI is about getting answers to questions you already know are important. Big Data is about identifying questions you didn’t even know existed, and then finding the answers to these questions. It is about discovering hidden insights.
A powerful real-life example of this would be something Netflix did:
After deciding to become a content creator, Netflix analyzed its user data and observed that its customers displayed huge interest in content involving David Fincher and Kevin Spacey. What did they do with this insight? They decided to produce a series directed by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. Thus, House of Cards was born! Netflix identified a previously unknown, unrealized market opportunity, and then created a product specifically designed to meet that market. All thanks to Big Data.
Image Source: Google
Companies can derive such insights from data originally gathered for other purposes (e.g., social media content). The volume of such data can be so huge that it exceeds the ability of traditional Business Intelligence tools to process it. This is where Big Data technologies like Hadoop come into play.
When adopted properly, we believe Big Data has several benefits such as predictive sales forecasting, evidence-based decision making, better insight into customer behavior, etc. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
If you are considering Big Data as opposed to traditional BI
- While you can glean surprising insights from Big Data, it can be challenging to estimate the Return on Investment (ROI) when beginning a Big Data project. The main reason for this is, as discussed above, you are trying to answer questions you didn’t know existed.
- Due to its unstructured nature, you would need data experts/scientists who are tech-savvy to analyze and understand the data. These data scientists may not, at the beginning, be the business experts you want them to be. You should be prepared to train your data experts into becoming business experts as well. This is different from traditional BI where ad-hoc reporting tools are easily available to a business user.
- To make the most of your Big Data, your company needs to focus on data-driven decision making in general. This may not always be straightforward: Making data-driven decisions might involve a cultural shift for many organizations. In addition, new business processes, business rules, and better data collection techniques may need to be adopted as well. The good news is that adopting this data-driven thinking can give your company a huge advantage over your competitors.
Big Data may present a lot of benefits to your company, but it is best to understand what you are trying to achieve before jumping into any Big Data project. Companies often mistake traditional Business Intelligence for Big Data. If you are trying to improve your company’s operations by determining whether you are achieving predefined goals, you might want to consider a traditional BI approach combined with Data Warehousing. On the other hand, you may already have access to a huge volume of unstructured data generated by your customers. If you are looking to discover hidden insights from this data in order to drive sales and revenue, then you should consider Big Data.
Our Data Analysis team at Anexinet can help you better understand your business problem and help you select the right solution. We would love to hear from you!
Anexinet is a leading professional consulting and services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions around digital disruption, analytics (and big data), and hybrid and private cloud strategies. Anexinet brings insight into how technology will impact how business decisions will be made and how our clients interact with their customers in the future.
Nirmal Vemanna, NVemanna@anexinet.com
Senior Business Analyst