Get Set For The Big 'Data' Explosion


Several trends have emerged in the enterprise technology landscape in the last two decades. And, if there is disruption that I would have to pick up, it would be consumerization of IT; not as an opportunity that offers convenience and utility but a disruptive trend where the fulcrum of power has greatly shifted from the enterprise Goliaths of the world to the start-up Davids. Cloud computing and virtualization have greatly reduced the entry barriers for doing business. While entry barrier is one aspect, the other interesting story is that business models themselves are evolving at greater speeds than before. Today, the network is the computer and more devices are connected to the internet than the entire population of human race. In a few years from now, our fridges will automatically place orders for groceries!!! What we are about to witness is an explosion of connected devices around us.

As the next technological revolution, “Internet of Things”, takes place, I personally feel that three things will determine how an enterprise competes in the market. One: how an enterprise deals with huge amounts of data. Two: the different insights an enterprise can derive from big data and three, how an enterprise deals with the increasingly connected employee and customer. In short, the three trends to look for would be big data, analytics and enterprise mobility.

In 2005, the largest microSD card in the market had a capacity of 128 MB. A couple of days ago, a large storage solutions manufacturer launched a microSD card with a capacity of 128GB. Storage capacity has grown 1024 times in less than 10 years!! Clearly, data storage is one of the fastest growing semiconductor technologies. And this is due to the exponential growth in demand for capturing data more than ever: research reports indicate that 90% of all data in the world was generated in the last two years.

Big Data:

As we evolve from “Consumerization of IT” to the “Internet of Things”, we are producing increasing amounts of data each passing year. Consumer internet companies are awash with data as they try to learn about us while we shop, watch movies, walk, talk, and even when we share secrets (A company called Secret in the Silicon Valley wants us to share our secrets on their platform)!! Enterprises, big or small, use this data (structured and unstructured) to draw insights that can help them drive customer loyalty, optimize marketing spends and even cut down expenses effectively. A simple case in point is CRM. Irrespective of which industry (retail, insurance, healthcare, publishing or consumer goods) we are in, we know that today’s customers interact through multiple touch points. Customers reach suppliers through email, social media, telephone, tele-conferences and other communication tools. They are much more connected than they were a few years ago. Maintaining an integrated view of customers across all channels enables a business to deliver great value. Clearly, this means not just capturing more data, but also integrating multiple data sets to derive key insights.

From Data to Analytics:

Big data generates value in three ways. First, just by capturing data from different data sets, an organization collects accurate information about key aspects of the business. Secondly, big data enables an organization to narrowly identify and define customer segments (so that customers can be served better). And the third is the most important, which is deriving insights using analytics to make data driven decisions. One simple example is what Tesco, the third largest retailer by revenues in the world, did to their refrigerators. Data points from refrigerator units across their major stores were analysed to predict when they might need servicing and proactively conduct maintenance thereby bringing energy savings for the retailer. Another case in point is a fast food company in US which is using cameras in drive-through lanes to determine items to display on its digital dashboard. So what you see in the digital dashboard would depend on the length of the queue, time of the day and even the weather.

Enterprise Mobility and data:

We might be moving towards a family that is more nuclear than ever. But, the fact remains that our work life and private life have become more blurred today. Consumerization of IT means that we are always connected and even carry our personal devices to the workplace. Enterprise mobility enables us to build a more collaborative work place by making our technology accessible anywhere and anytime. The BYOD trend is increasing with each passing year as it brings in a lot of flexibility to employees as they complete their daily tasks with their own devices, positively impacting productivity. However, organizations need to be cautious about data. For a global enterprise, data is of the highest value and they would be wise to balance mobility of BYOD with data security. One approach in that direction would be to build a multi-tenanted IT infrastructure with each tenant having its own security mechanisms. So, security and access to data is layered from BYOD devices.

Today, enterprises use big data and analytics to differentiate themselves from the competition by applying data driven strategies. But in the next few years, big data and analytics will become key factors of production (just like land and resources).