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Capitalizing on big data

Aug 05,2019
Stephen H. Yu
The author is CEO of Willow Data Strategy.

Big data is nothing new. Many have worked in the field, extracting value from free data. People working in IT enterprises like Google and Amazon, whose primary business is based on information and statistical power, hardly refer to the term.

The word “big” can be misleading in many ways. When the term was first used, “big” was added to differentiate in terms of the volume, velocity and variety in data discovery, analytics and application from general data. But that technical definition can also be misunderstood in that data needs to be in bulk and be diverse to be valuable. Software companies did not mean to emphasize that data needs to be “big” or that they were capable of processing information regardless of the bulky size.

To highlight the size in data would be like citing Korea’s annual crop yield in front of a starving person. Data in pieces actually can be more meaningful to the user. Weather forecast, for example, is the result of analytical work of enormous data. What the user requires are the chances of rain the following day, not the entire data storage on weather.

An information supplier will continue to invest in data when it helps increase its revenue or saves costs. A business would gain nothing if it merely adopts data processing just because it is fashionable. Data storage and analytics must serve to achieve a business goal. Data won’t provide any answers just because it is there.

Gold-mining does not immediately produce commercial value like a gold watch. Data, too, must be processed to add value. Many organizations are devoted to collecting data and delivering it to users. But that’s just a small part of data processing.

So what is useful data? First, it must be simple and easy to understand. Second, the user needs concise answers to questions. Third, the information must be consistently correct and useful. Fourth, the information must be applicable broadly and not in restricted cases. Fifth, the information must be available and accessible whenever the user seeks it.

Many ask me how big data has helped my business as I have been working with data for over 30 years. The work of collecting and processing enormous amounts of data requires great investment and efforts. Like any business, big data usage must have a precise goal if it is intended for business. If the question is not precise, there is no answer.


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