Big data shouldn't be about moving around massive piles of bits. Instead, it should be about learning what will make a difference– separating the “signals” that contain actionable information from the “noise” – everything else. Mark Barrenecha, CEO of Open Text, points out in a Forbes article “Big Data: Big Hype?” that improving management of unstructured data can be a huge step forward. We just spend way too much time talking about big data storage and not nearly enough about big data analytics.
We’re so intimidated by unstructured data – fully 80 percent of all data – that we don’t spend enough time improving it. This prevents us from recognizing that our hands and our feet are attached to the same body. We don’t connect the well-organized transactional data we already have with the flood of new data. We’re so flummoxed by the big “Vs” – volume, variety, velocity – that only 0.5 percent of all data is being analyzed, according to IDC.
It’s time to shake off that mantle of fear. As Barrenecha says, “We have arrived at the point where we have practical solutions to address all aspects of enterprise information management.” Absolutely true. What we don’t always have is a CIO who takes a holistic view of setting big data strategy – a leader with vision is critical for leading us out of the valley of despair to implement not just centralized information management technology, but also policy that can prioritize data to be analyzed. That 0.5 percent analysis number sounds pathetic – and it is – but we certainly don’t need to analyze 100 percent of all the data we encounter – that’s not just noise; it’s a cacophony. We need to set priorities and collapse age-old obstacles between divisions. The technology for signal extraction is already here; we just need leaders who can reach across the aisles and get above the hype.