The so-called 'bonanza' of Big Data is disappointing many businesses - and should give way to 'better data', according to FCB New Zealand's leading data strategist.

Big Data is the term given to the massive amounts of information surrounding most businesses, so large and complex ordinary day-to-day systems cannot cope with them – but which, if correctly collected, marshalled and applied, have held out the promise of huge business gains.

However, Qassem Naim, lead data strategist at FCB New Zealand, says Big Data has become an overused term sparking billions of dollars of investment in industries including telecom, automotive and retail – but hasn’t always brought the successes businesses had envisaged.

An indication of this increasing disillusionment with Big Data amongst businesses is revealed in a Gartner research paper last month, indicating planned investment in Big Data solutions over the next two years will decrease by nearly 20 per cent. Nearly half (46 per cent) of the Gartner respondents stated Big Data investments were less important that other IT initiatives. Many Big Data solutions have never made it out of testing and into production environments, with Gartner reporting that 48 per cent of businesses indicated investing in Big Data -but only 15 per cent had deployed a solution, a mere 1 per cent increase from the previous year.

Naim says investment is better aimed at “better data” solutions: “Many organisations are investing in big data but it’s the ability to leverage those large quantities of data in creative ways that makes those investments worthwhile – and sets them apart from competitors.”

Many businesses have been collecting data without a plan or structure on what they want to find from it and how to use it. The data is often collected in silos with different business units within a company collecting and then safeguarding their own data – meaning insights and creative opportunities are often missed.

“Anyone can buy servers and hire the IT personnel to maintain them, but truly utilising data to add value is more nuanced, requiring innovative thinkers who understand the bigger picture, what matters to the business and what sorts of investments will really yield dividends” says Naim.

“Poorly communicated objectives and unclear plans to measure the success or failure of these initiatives mean return on the investment is rarely realised. These Business Intelligence solutions, driven by a desire to ‘Keep up with the Jones’, has resulted in many business leaders becoming disenchanted with the notion of investing when it really matters.”

When data is intentionally designed and well-structured, Naim says it allows companies to ask questions throughout a process and well into the future.

“Often questions they’d never thought to have asked when they first collected the data start to reveal themselves,” he says. “Combine a solid data infrastructure with clever humans and strong test strategies and you can end up learning a lot about your business and seeing things in new ways.

“It’s important in any industry to keep an eye on the future and a pulse on what’s developing around you – but also not to get ahead of yourself. Big is a relative term but often small-to-medium-sized data solutions are more suited to accomplish the majority of business needs and prevent blowing large budgets on functionality you won’t use until 2020.”

The ABC of sales dictates: ‘Always be Closing’ but, when it comes to data Naim says: “Business leaders must ‘Always be Critical’. Most of the data is noise, most of the tech isn’t necessary, they should focus on what is really needed to meet objectives today.”

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald online,