Big Data (Part I) How important is data for your company

“Big data” is currently on everyone’s lips. There is hardly an area in which the term cannot be found in some way. But most of the explanations are quite general, and the tips for dealing with the flood of data are often not very specific. What does the catchphrase really mean? And why should companies take a closer look at it as a matter of urgency?

This article may even give you a fresh look at a seemingly well-known topic. In the second part, which will appear in the coming week, we will deal in detail with how Big Data can be used to create concrete value in your company – including employee profiles and helpful checklists.

Big data: classification and definition of terms

First, let’s put the term in perspective. Big data has to be used as a synonym for a lot. From the point of view of the IT industry, big data is actually nothing more than its statement: “We not only have understood the topic, we now also have the technical possibilities to deal with it!”.

“Big data” from the perspective of companies is a bit more complex. In a nutshell: “There are new data sources or better use of the existing ones from which we can draw value-generating information.” But what does that tell us about the actual handling of the apparently growing mass of data? Correct: not much yet!

Therefore, in the following, I would like to take a brief look at the concept of big data with you in a somewhat theoretical manner. But then it goes straight to practice: You will receive some hopefully helpful checklists to understand and use Big Data in your own company. Both together – background and application – form the knowledge and the associated knowledge advantage, which no responsible company can do without in the long term.

When this is understood and internalized, the rest is just a piece of cake – and not nearly as dramatic as many big data scenarios would have us believe. Promised!

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For comparison: information, data volumes and further developments

What does “big” mean when it comes to data? And what actual numbers and quantities are we talking about?

For comparison: A page of correspondence written with the machine corresponds to about 1024 bytes or 1KB (“KiloByte” – 1024 results from the fact that the binary system serves as the basis in IT and we work with powers of two – but only marginally ).

1 megabyte corresponds to 1000 pages (a meanwhile primeval medium, the floppy disk, had 1.44 MB) 1 gigabyte corresponds to 1000,000 pages (corresponds to a small USB stick) 1 terabyte corresponds to 1000,000,000 pages (standard discounter hard drive) 1 petabyte corresponds to 1000,000,000,000 typewritten pages. 1 exabyte corresponds to 1000,000,000,000,000 with the….

Our systems currently generate around 2.5 exabytes of data every day and current projections assume an increase of around 40 percent per year.

Quite a lot, right? But: Storage space is cheaper than ever and is getting cheaper and cheaper. Even storage, backup and restore will not be an unsolvable problem as long as an economical business model exists. Finding an economical, timely and implementable information procurement strategy that integrates company-wide into the existing systems, or specifically expands or enriches them, that is the real challenge.

What is the added value of big data?

Information is becoming more and more “fine-grained”. A variety of sensors, systems and networks make more and more such detailed information available at breathtaking speed. But measuring, sending and generating is not enough. Companies need the right processes and tools to evaluate and use this data in a targeted and timely manner. This should enrich the already existing information processes in a variety of ways. If this is successful, the results help to record customer behavior in great detail, to understand it better and thus to align one’s own planning much more precisely.

In this way, stocks can be optimized, goods and services can be produced sustainably and in line with demand, and are available at exactly the right time when the need arises. Entrepreneurial action and processes are more targeted and error-free, because the evaluation of the additional information that is available makes our understanding of reality more and more precise. This is where the real added value lies.

In order for this added value to actually be realized in your company, the prerequisites must be recognized and the right questions must be asked. That is where the real challenge lies.

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