3. General knowledge about big data is diverse and often contradictory
Big data means many different things to many different people. While the official definition of big data is the four 'Vs' - volume, variety, velocity and veracity - it's clear many marketers and companies are using the term to describe everything from basic-level analytics and reporting on internal data sets, through to real-time responsiveness using third-party data consumption and predictive analytics.
For Live Nation's director of strategy and analytics, Jonathan Watts, who spoke on theThinking Small: A panel on making big data actionable panel, big data ultimately comes back to the business challenges he faces. "I don't really use the term big data; for me it describes a problem I run into," he said.
"Usually when I'm dealing with a specific data set, I can generally work with that within the tool that I have. But when you start to try and cobble together data sets from different sources, you run into a problem where the tools don't work anymore. That's what big data is to me - when you start to try and combine things and you run into processing and technology power issues that you need to solve it."
Big data can be all different sizes depending on your business, said Digital Clarity Group president and principal analyst, Scott Liewehr. He described big data today as the "phenomenon of utilising data to make more informed business decisions".
"Up until a year ago, I had been using the official definition of big data - which is that it's data so large your databases can't handle it," he said. "But I've stopped focusing on the true definition of the term and made it akin to 'mobile first' - it doesn't mean you have to have a mobile strategy first, but it started to make us think from the perspective of the customer.
"If we are thinking about using data, gathering insights about our customers, processes and products and making informed decisions based on that data, that's a good thing."
4. Data is only as useful as your ability to action it
Whatever big data means to you, it's useless without the business case, processes and people in place to make it actionable.
In a customer video during the Thinking Small: A panel on making big data actionablepanel session, Apollo Group's June Dershewitz highlighted the difference between the buzz of big data, and the reality it should be presenting for businesses. She used an example of hourly alerts on her company's website as something that helps maintain revenue and be more responsive to customers.
"We need the data to ask the questions about what is important to us as a business, and how we can then use data to help achieve those objectives," Dershewitz said. "There's a lot of conversation about real-time, but you only actually need data as quickly as you can turn around and take action on it. But if we can act on the data quickly, we should be able to get access to the data quickly."