The Rise of Big Data and What it Means for Today’s Leaders

In 2016, we interviewed Shane Greenstein, author of How the Internet Became Commercial. As he laid out his arguments, it became evident that the big data revolution was imminent. The professor noted that the internet contributed significantly to data collection in the business world. Although at the time it was mainly used to evaluate performance.

Fast forward two years later, big data analysis is now a worldwide tool for driving business forward.

What is big data?
A term coined in the 1990s, ‘big data’ pertains to large sets of information that are collected, stockpiled, and analyzed. In big data language, there are three Vs to help understand data collection: volume, velocity, and variety. In order for information to become powerful, it has to come in huge volumes from different sources. Data also arrives in a high velocity in what is called data streaming. It can allow companies to analyze data as it arrives and make quick decisions based on the information. Lastly, data can come in a variety of formats: structured, semi-structured and unstructured.

Structured data comes in alphanumeric form ina defined length. They’re found in traditional machine-or human-generated databases and are easier to interpret. Information Age explains that new technologies make data analytics more ‘user-friendly’, which contributed to big data’s arrival into the mainstream. GPS falls under structured data, as well as the biodata inputted to a computer when you fill out an online survey. Semi-structured data, while not as defined as the first type, still has organizational properties that can be interpreted by traditional processes.

Meanwhile, an estimated 90% of existing big data falls under the unstructured format, which can be found predominantly in social media. E-mails, tweets, photos, sound clips, blog posts, and other multimedia content on the internet are mined and analyzed by companies worldwide. Maryville University relayed findings that there will be 180 trillion gigabytes worth of data to be filed and studied by 2025. This has resulted in data analytics becoming a very popular career choice in recent years.

How to use big data?
For the leaders of today’s world, what matters most is not the volume of data, but how it is used. The information can be used by leaders implementing cost-cutting and time-saving solutions. Such strategies can lead to an improvement in overall organizational efficiency. For instance, banks turn to big data analysis to detect and intercept cases of fraud, while schools monitor student progress through different assessment tools. Modern Diplomacy adds that government uses for big data can range from predicting the traffic to preventing terrorist attacks and anticipating natural disasters.

Being updated can help companies stay ahead of the curve, create products that will sell, and make better business decisions. Giant firms like Starbucks analyze weekly transactions to constantly improve service and drive marketing campaigns. Their experimentation with big data is paying off as the coffee magnate is one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

However, to quote Voltaire (or Spiderman’s uncle), “With great power comes great responsibility.” In light of Facebook’s recent privacy breach, companies have to be transparent about their use of big data. AdWeek highlights that the ethical use of data comes from the top down and should start with the leaders of the organization. Leaders need to set the tone when it comes to responsible datause. They must ensure that both the company and customer interest are being protected. They can enlist the help of data scientists to develop programs like blockchain technology to prevent other companies from stealing sensitive data.

Most of all, leaders should be open to consumers about what they intend to do with the collected information. After all, a business will not last when it loses its consumers’ trust.