Big Data: The next big thing

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In a way the term itself – big data – says it all as it effectively conveys a sense of importance in a very matter-of-fact way. In recent years we have seen nothing short of the rise and rise of data.

The phrase “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” has become something of a mantra as forward-thinking companies have moved from data collection to data analytics to becoming data-driven organisations, spurred on by the example set by the likes of data pioneers such as Google.

Google leads the way with data

Of course, Google is way out in front when it comes to data. As the rest of the world seems to have begun cottoning on to the power and potential of analytics and big data, Google has quietly and methodically been creating perhaps the most refined and advance performance management engine in the world, and the company’s famed People Operations division.

In very, very simple terms Google uses data to ask questions – the answers to which help the company to solve all sorts of business problems. Google firmly believes that the insights gleaned from the data it holds are the best way to systematically improve levels of performance and the quality of leadership within the organisation.

Big Data can revolutionise management because it gives managers the opportunity to measure and understand so much more about their businesses. When managers are successful at translating such data knowledge into better quality and more consistent decision making and performance, the momentum it gives a company to drive forward is immense.

Another success story when it comes to Big Data is Amazon. The online giant has waged war on traditional bricks-and-mortar shops and been ruthless in its efficiency. The power of data than online retailers have to track not just sales but also a customer’s browsing history – and the ability to develop algorithms that will only ever improve over time – gives an online retailer such as Amazon a massive advantage over a conventional high street store.

Big Data has the potential to transform even the most traditional of businesses as it enables organisations to make better decisions, replacing instinct and intuition with data-driven evidence and rigour. But the challenges of becoming an organisation adept at handling Big Data are not insignificant and certain skills set are required.

What skill sets are needed to get into Big Data? 

A strong IT background is a great advantage, both in terms of information handling and programming skills. Indeed, coding really is an essential skill for a Big Data analyst as it enables statistical and numerical analysis of very large data sets.

The core quantitative skills of numerical and statistical analysis are important, but it is also vital to be confident with multiple technologies.

Perhaps the most important skill that is required to work with Big Data is the ability to apply the insights gained from data to a business setting. Therefore, a strong understanding of the business environment you are working in is absolutely crucial.

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