Big Data applications are moving from their search engine origins to the affordable commercial realm, providing dataphiles with sharp new tools to dissect and analyse massive volumes of electronic data. What is even more impressive than this sexy new technology is the marketing hype.
I recently read a Big Data article in Forbes referring to “The Age of Big Data” where the advent of big data technology is predicted to change our society as radically as the Industrial and Electronic revolutions did.
With a forecasting authority that would make the End-of-the-World-is-Coming-Now cults gulp down their arsenic spiked cool-aid, we are also told that most companies, whether they know it now or not, have no alternative but to invest in Big Data.
Seems that everywhere we look these days, some self-proclaimed big data expert is spruiking out the revolutionary benefits of Big Data. And in just about every imaginable circumstance, we are assured that Big Data is the answer.
From my perspective, the most offensive of these marketing articles are those that follow the logic that if Google, Yahoo, Ebay, NASA, American Express, twitter, NASDEC, Walmart etc can do it with big data, so can you!
Um, wow, thanks for that … I didn’t realise I could.
For example, the essence of the Forbes article is that Facebook has developed a network of trust where close to 1 billion members willingly share personal data. This personal data is mined by Facebook to improve their offering and income. Now despite the fact that we live in a low trust world, where our faith in others is being continuously reduced on a daily basis, we are assured that if Facebook can do it, we too can also build this trust with our customers and get them to willingly share their personal information, so that we can mine and exploit it for economic profit.
Forbes acknowledges that this is not easy but goes on to say that it will become the norm.
If so, then how come Google with their economic might and power are incapable of replicating what Facebook has achieved? Over the past few years, they have spent zillions of dollars on their various offerings and yet Google + is like a ghost town. Users have registered primarily as a search engine optimisation strategy, but nothing’s happening.
The reality is that these things are not easy. In fact they are hard. So let’s get real about it.
For each successful FB, LinkedIn, Amazon, eBay, Google and other big data social network companies there are numerous imitators who have failed. And if these imitators fail, how will this model of customer/supplier sharing data take off in traditional, non-web or non-data orientated companies?
For example, our clients are predominantly business-to-business companies. They supply good quality products at reasonable prices but nobody raves about them on FB, Twitter or Pinterest. Whilst computerisation and business intelligence has improved the way they work, their businesses are still built on their fundamental offering of their pre-computer days. And they are successful! Unlikely big data will EVER change them.
French novelist Alphonse Karr, who lived through the first industrial revolution, got it right when he penned “the more things change, the more they stay the same” When the hype dies down, Big Data is going to be just another tool in our tool-boxes. Applicable to some, but not for all.
The next article will propose some valid uses and opportunities for big data, that is if we don’t get distracted by the next revolutionary technology that is guaranteed to change the world…