What’s the big deal about big data?

May 22, 2015 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Milena Head, Professor of Information Systems

DeGroote-02-Summit-300x250Everyone is talking about big data. Whether you are a corporate leader, entrepreneur, researcher or educator, you have likely heard someone say recently: “we should really look into how big data and data analytics can help us.” But what does it really mean and what makes it a big deal? Simply put, big data (and the technologies that surround it) means big impact, big challenges and big opportunities.

Big Impact: The word “big” implies “lots”. But it’s not just volume that defines data as being big. It is also very diverse and can be highly unstructured. Think about the vast amount of data that is generated every minute around the world just through social media. The key is to uncover the insights that lay within. Done well, these insights can result in big competitive impact and transform the way you make decisions and run your business.

Big Challenges: Unleashing the potential from big data is not easy. The data can help answer questions, but knowing what are the right questions to ask can be much more challenging than any technological hurdles. After all, how can you determine what you don’t know if you don’t know what you don’t know? Finding the right people that have a strategic perspective and know the questions to ask is one of big data’s biggest challenges. No matter how much money is pumped into the technology, it cannot overcome deficiencies in human capital.

Big Opportunities: Many universities have recognized the desperate need to develop human capital that can unleash the potential of big data through analytics. In just the last couple of years, there has been a huge surge of new data analytics programs. However, transformation through technology does not only require analytical and technology skills. It requires a strategic thinker. This integrated technology and strategy approach is new in the educational market and has been identified as a great opportunity for the DeGroote School of Business. With a proven track-record of interdisciplinary education and research, our faculty are well positioned to arm individuals, and thus organizations, with both digital literacy and strategic perspectives. We firmly believe that this integrated perspective is essential to asking the right questions to uncover the insights and managing the digitally-driven organization.

We live in an exciting time. Big data really is a big deal. We are witnessing a transformation in how we make decisions and conduct business through digitally-driven insights and innovation. Big opportunities for big impact abound. However, we must never lose sight of the importance of the human element to ask the right questions and manage this transformation.   As an educator and researcher, it is the development of the human element that is my big deal.

Milena HeadMilena Head specializes in electronic business (eBusiness) and Human Computer Interaction (HCI). She has published over 90 papers in academic journals, books and conferences. Her research interests include trust, privacy and adoption in electronic commerce, interface design, mobile commerce, identity theft, cross-cultural issues in electronic commerce and human computer interaction, e-retailing, and web navigation.

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