Taming the Big Data Beast
When it comes to effective mobile strategy, it’s not Big Data, it’s the right data
By: George Mashini
Apr. 1, 2013 09:00 AM
If you're not convinced the hype around Big Data is entirely justified, consider the following statistics: in the time it takes an average person to read this article, 72 petabytes of data (that's 72 x 1015 if you're counting) will have been added to the global information pool. Each hour, Walmart processes more than 1 million customer transactions, logging data into databases estimated to contain more than 2.5 petabytes of data - the equivalent of 167 times the information contained in all the books in the U.S. Library of Congress. Facebook uploads 500 terabytes of new information daily. The volume of global business data generated is doubling every 1.2 years.
The Big Data phenomenon is real. It's happening in every sector of the economy, from government to education to private business. In addition to the oft-cited storage, security and analysis questions Big Data brings, it also has an unprecedented opportunity to impact your company and its mobile strategy.
The explosion of mobile device use among business users, for example, is often cited by analysts as one of the main sources of today's data explosion. IT analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2015 mobile phones will outnumber PCs as the most popular web access devices. Users with the ability to capture date on mobile devices, through bar codes, GPS apps, QR readers, or manual input, have greatly contributed to the growing data stream.
Big Data and mobility share much more than a cause and effect relationship or places on Gartner's list of top 2013 technology trends. They are linked in ways that offer game-changing value-creation opportunities to companies that effectively tie the collection of information to the delivery of real-time decision support to mobile executives. While members of the executive and IT teams continue the debate over data storage options, methods of securing and managing privacy concerns around customer data continue to linger. Mobility executives also face their own set of unique Big Data challenges including the best ways to analyze the dramatically expanding information flow.
If managed correctly, leveraging Big Data as a key component of your mobile development strategy can pay off in increased sales, better corporate performance and improved efficiency. If not properly managed, you'll simply be contributing to the $900 billion in information overload costs industries suffer every year.
More important, it's not just about Big Data, it's about getting the right data into the hands of the right person, at the right time. That means having the strategy, applications and tools necessary to ensure efficient two-way interaction between remote workers and their corporate data systems.
The core of the Big Data promise is developing a strategy that delivers key real-time information to remote users and allows them to access the specific information they need to perform critical tasks, i.e., prep for a sales call, manage a customer issue or drive a critical business decision. Keeping these same remote users insulated from extraneous information that is out of date or unnecessary must also be a part of an effective mobile data management strategy.
How you build mobility solutions that combine multiple data sets into a single usable data-driven application could make the difference between the critical app sales depends on and the one that is abandoned as irrelevant or too difficult to use. Recent studies have shown that sales reps access data from as many as 15 different sources to collect valuable information about contacts and prospects. And a significant majority of executives believe that their sales reps miss opportunities because they can't keep up with this information.
At the other extreme, forcing mobile sales executives to wade through seemingly endless emails and data streams to extract the specific information that could really make a business difference - that the customer has just been placed on credit hold and new sales orders are suspended, for example, or that the next appointment of the day has just cancelled allowing more sales time opportunity with the current prospect - can create equal challenges.
It's not just sales and customer support personnel who benefit from an effective mobile data strategy. Imagine a remote inventory manager with the ability, when alerted in real time to the fact that a key supplier just failed to make delivery on a needed component, to trigger alternative sourcing strategies that would keep the production lines moving and avoid disruption of product delivery. Or the executive, when presented with real-time analysis of poor operating performance in a region, can reach across time zones from a mobile device to make an emergency conference call to implement corrective action. In fact, 63% of executives in a recent SAS/Economist survey said having the ability to rapidly process information is having a significant impact on their strategic decision making ability.
The key to all of the above scenarios is, again, having the right data at hand, delivered on the right device (which is most often defined as the device of choice of the mobile user) without forcing the user to do their own data mining. Accomplishing this requires a mobile strategy that:
As you consider how the convergence of Big Data and mobile will impact you in the months ahead, here are five things that might help keep you on the right path as you develop and implement a longer-term strategy:
Big Data, like mobility, is not a trend or a passing fad; it's a fundamental element of 21st century business operations. Effectively organizing and delivering the results of that analysis to today's mobile management teams must have a place on every mobile and IT executive's priority list.
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