Companies must tame Big Data to be competitive
BY FRED MENGE Business Viewspoint
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 3:56 AM
How many emails do you send and receive each day at the office? Think about the number of documents, spreadsheets, images and other forms of digital media you depend on to get work done. Now multiply that by the number of employees at your company.
You can quickly see how digital information - the lifeblood of business today - is growing at a shocking rate. In fact, the amount of data in the world increased 62 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to International Data Corp.
Amazingly, 90 percent of the electronic data that exists today was created within just the past two years. It's been said that if the volume of information at the dawn of the 20th century could fit into a shoebox, the volume of information today would fill an NFL stadium 20 times over.
But only a small portion of business data today is useful. The rest is stale, duplicated, unknown or not business-related. Adding to this mess is the aimless storing of data in various locations and formats, making it difficult to access what you need when you need it.
With this proliferation of data - both valuable and worthless - comes risks and headaches for organizations. From a legal perspective, vast amounts of electronic information with no retention schedule can be a huge liability. For the IT folks, endlessly storing and processing all this data with no long-term strategy can be cumbersome and expensive. And for company leadership, data management is usually a back burner issue until there's a critical need, and then it's all hands on deck!
By law, companies are obligated to locate and produce all relevant electronic evidence including emails, documents, spreadsheets, jpegs and other evidence during litigation. In a large organization, it can cost in excess of $10,000 per gigabyte of data to meet the intent of this legal requirement. Therefore, more data stored within the organization may mean proportionally more costs in electronic discovery of data and legal hold procedures.
On the flip side, all this data can be an incredibly good thing for companies. You may have heard talk around the office lately about "Big Data." While it sounds large and mysterious, Big Data is really more about the ability to harness the power of all the meaningful data under a company's roof for a competitive advantage.
The analysis of vast amounts of raw data can help a company quickly and dramatically distance itself from competitors in a way unheard of only a few years ago. An energy company, for example, that collected exploration data years ago can now use it in many more ways with modern trending and analysis tools in the Big Data era. This certainly gives a company the competitive advantage to other companies that rely on traditional analysis.
Tulsa is about to put itself on the Big Data map with the installation of the Tulsa Community Supercomputer at City Hall. It is the largest community supercomputer in the United States and will become a Top 25 academic supercomputer. The public and private sector will soon have the ability to sort and process large amounts of data using this powerful computational tool.
Before a company attempts to harness Big Data, it would be wise to first tame Big Data. Ask these questions: What's the reliability and accuracy of existing data? Moving forward, what data should we retain and for how long?
You must have processes and procedures for managing data from creation through legal disposal. Data life cycle management often begins with a records management program.
While the era of Big Data will be valuable for research and trending for many organizations, it should be viewed in small pieces beginning today. What data to retain, the reliability and accuracy of existing data, and how long the data should be retained are all of concern.
Fred Menge is managing director of Magnir, a provider of information management services with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The services focus on the areas of litigation readiness, mergers and acquisitions, information systems audits and assessment, as well as information lifecycle management.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the Tulsa World. To inquire about writing a Business Viewpoint column, e-mail a short outline of the article to Business Editor John Stancavage at firstname.lastname@example.org. The column should focus on a business trend; the outlook for the city, state or an industry; or a topic of interest in an area of the writer's expertise. Articles should not promote a business or be overly political in nature.