From banking transactions and weather detection to patient information and TV viewing habits, nearly every one of our activities is recorded as data. But with so much data being generated every single day, the challenge for business is: how can they drill it down to extract the most meaningful insights?

For many businesses, the prospect of handling and analysing big data has become overwhelming. According to the NewVantage Partners Big Data Executive Survey 2017, 95% of Fortune 1000 business leaders said that their company had undertaken a big data project in the last five years. However, less than half of those claimed their initiatives had achieved measurable results. And the costs associated with poor data management are rising, with an estimated cost to US businesses of $3.1 trillion a year.

Without sufficient analysis and the ability to draw insights, all this data is worthless. To drive future business decision making, tools – and the expertise to use them – are essential if we are to harness this ever-changing, rapidly-expanding, multi-format data.

Defining big data

Though data challenges for a larger business differ from those of a smaller business, most experts define big data as having data stores with the three Vs: volume, velocity and variety:

  • Volume – A set of data which is difficult for a company to store or process due to its size. Today, most organisations meet these criteria.
  • Velocity – The production of data at speed, to which a business must respond in real time. The likes of ecommerce and social media fall into this category.
  • Variety – Data in a database in a variety of formats, such as email, text documents, images and video.

How can big data help?

If used in the right way, the potential value of big data is huge. For businesses, data can be leveraged to achieve a number of common business goals. Not only can big data be used to reduce expenses through operational efficiencies, it can create new avenues for innovation. It can also be used to accelerate the speed with which new products and services are launched and delivered.

Only by extracting and acting upon the insights from big data, can business fulfil these key objectives and remain competitive.

Dealing with data demands

Managing the challenges and making the most of the data available requires investment in technology, employee expertise, policy development and organisational change.

  • Technology – To deal with the sheer volume of data, the latest data storage technology is key. And when it comes to making decisions faster, notably in banking, insurance, and healthcare, companies are turning to real-time analytics software.
  • Recruitment – Developing and operating this technology requires the right expertise, which is why the demand and salaries for data specialists are on the rise. According to the 2020 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, big data engineers earn between $130,000 and $222,000 on average, while data scientist salaries range from $105,750 to $180,250.
  • Policy development – Drawing on data from different sources can create validation issues, calling on a combination of policy and technology updates. Again, knowledgeable personnel are fundamental to creating and governing any new policies and procedures.
  • Organisational change – Managing staff uncertainties around new technology and processes requires great leaders – leaders who understand the potential of big data.

Sourcing the right minds

For professionals willing to learn, opportunities abound, particularly for data scientists, who are noted for their ability to evaluate multiple data sources from multiple angles. Often described as part analyst, part artist, a data scientist identifies trends and finds the right ways to tackle the data, which makes these individuals the biggest benefit to an organisation.

With machine learning and AI increasingly being used to analyse data, demand for specialists in these fields is growing too. By drawing on machine-learning models, experts can estimate customer churn rates, for example, helping to drive crucial changes to strategies and processes.

Above and beyond these more practical skillsets is a need for business leadership in big data. Data modelling and visualising tools are useful, but it’s the ability to explain model outcomes to stakeholders that is essential for supporting company direction.

Discover a career in data

Bridging the gap between data science and business management, the University of Bath’s Business Analytics online MSc provides both the specialist data skills and the decision analysis capabilities to apply in a host of business contexts.

Only by drawing on expert knowledge and cutting-edge technology, can businesses harness the true power of big data, helping them to make better decisions and remain competitive in an increasingly data-driven economy.

Tap into the biggest opportunities in big data – apply for the University of Bath’s Business Analytics online MSc today.

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