There are always some phrases we use without really knowing what they mean - think "The Cloud", "Quinoa", or "Inconceivable". One of today's most commonly used but rarely understood business term is "Big Data".
What is "Big Data"?
Big Data, besides being the name of a great alt-rock band behind the recent hit single "Dangerous", basically refers to any source of structured or unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for one purpose or another. These data sources aren't necessarily extremely large, though they can sometimes be so big that they are measured in petabytes and exabytes (1 Petabyte = 1,000 Terabytes and 1 Exabyte = 1,000 Petabytes, in case you were wondering).
Using Big Data to Measure Performance
but if you can't see where you're going, you may never reach the finish line.
Big Data analytics, or Business Intelligence, allows businesses to keep track of their performance in a variety of areas using whatever key performance indicators (KPI's) effectively measure success for them. For some service companies, those KPI's might be billable hours or clients served. Other useful KPI's for individual employee performance might be sales calls made for sales team members or pieces of content created for content marketers. Whatever KPI's are most relevant to your company, BI/analytics tools are designed to help aggregate your data from various input sources and turn it into useful information by transforming it into graphs and visualizations that make it easy to spot trends, opportunities for improvement, and problem areas in your own company.
As the amount of mineable data has grown, so has the number of tools available to help business make use of that data. Traditional business data companies like SAP, IBM, and Oracle offer business intelligence solutions targeted mainly to large enterprises. Over the last decade, however, several companies like SAS, Microsoft, Tableau, and Tibco have offered more scalable SaaS BI tools which are accessible to small and medium sized businesses. Each BI tool has its pro's and con's, and some are definitely stronger than others (You can read about Forrester Research's report on many of them here), but no matter the size of your business or its IT budget, there's probably a BI tool out there for you.
Hopefully now you understand a little bit more what Big Data is and why so many people in business are talking about it. But more than that, I hope that you are starting to think of ways you could use your business data to generate actionable insights to improve your business' productivity, agility, and efficiency.
Oh, and I apologize if you were hoping to learn what quinoa is; I still haven't figured that one out.
If you have any questions about business intelligence or are curious how BI technology can help your business succeed, contact Jon Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 214-1652.
Your Colorado Microbrew Recommendation:
Mojo Risin' Double IPA - Boulder Beer Co.
ABV: 10% IBU's: 80
Everything about this beer is overdone - and that can be good sometimes! BBC added a half ton of extra malt and doubled the amount of hops they put in the original Mojo Risin' IPA to make this double, and you can definitely taste the difference. Be ready for a full sensory explosion when you crack this one open, full of grapefruit-like aroma and intense flavor.