Big Data Overview: How’s Your Company Doing?

By Jack Rosenberger

Big data analytics is a top priority for eight in 10 mid-size and large companies, according to a new survey by QuinStreet Enterprise. While the respondents are pouring money into big data initiatives in order to enable quicker and more accurate decision-making, the companies are concerned about project and management costs, the ability to scale infrastructure, and making analytics easy for a wide variety of end users.

The report, “2014 Big Data Outlook: Big Data is Transformative—Where is Your Company?”, is based on the online responses of 540 IT decision-makers in North America, and examines how and why small, medium and large companies are using big data, the challenges of deployment, and the use of vendors and technologies. For a copy of the report,.

“For CIOs, one of the report’s key takeaways is how high a priority big data is for many companies,” says Salvatore Salamone, senior manager for customer content, QuinStreet Enterprise. “If they are considering it, other people in their market are also considering it. Overall, 77 percent of the respondents said it is a high priority.”

One of the report’s most surprising findings is the high percent of mid-size companies (57 percent) for which big data analytics is a top priority. “What stood out is that mid-size companies, in particular, are looking at big data as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors,” says Salamone. “You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 company to put big data to your advantage. Open source solutions like Hadoop are making big data analytics available to companies of all sizes.”

The Allure of Big Data Analytics

Not surprisingly, the respondents said the appeal of big data analytics is faster and more accurate decision-making, a finding that is consistent with previous big data surveys. The respondents cited the top benefits as more transparent and usable information (74 percent), more accurate and timely decision-making (72 percent), scalability (67 percent), real-time access to big data (65 percent), and more timely integration of data (63 percent) and a faster determination of change (63 percent).    

When asked what types of big data analytics business-use cases their organization is involved in, the top five uses were:

  • improving speed and reducing complexity (62 percent)
  • customer retention (50 percent)
  • product development (47 percent)
  • gaining a competitive advantage (46 percent)
  • optimizing ecommerce user experience (31 percent)

Despite all of the attention (and considerable hype) about big data analytics, the survey revealed it is still an emerging field, says Salamone. “When we asked people what vendors they planned to work with for a big data solution, the number one answer was ‘none,’ ” Salamone notes. “Forty-three percent said ‘none,’ and only one vendor got more than 10 percent. You have clear leaders in more established industries. But one of the reasons why there is no clear big data leader is that so many different technologies go into a big data solution. There are clear leaders for particular products, like IBM and Oracle, but there is no single place to get help with a big data solution.”

For many companies, one of the biggest challenges is handling increasingly large volumes of data. Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) manage at least 10 TB of data each month and 21 percent handle at least 100 TB of data per month. Another leading challenge is managing project scalability, with the top difficulties being establishing easy-to-use tools (42 percent), increasing network bandwidth (41 percent) and adding hardware, such as servers and storage (39 percent).   

One of the survey’s unwelcome surprises is how persistent the challenges of managing and analyzing big data are for companies today. “The challenges don’t go away,” says Salamone. “In the early stages, businesses encounter challenges, but the challenges hardly diminish when you look at the broader market of companies that are already doing this. Big data involves, among other things, integrating products, software compatibility and data formatting. Those are issues that won’t go away. In previous surveys, the early adopters face one set of problems and as they progress, they face a new set of challenges, but with big data, the challenges don’t change.”

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger
is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, “Protecting Your Brand in Cyberspace,” click here.

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