The term “big data” has become ubiquitous today, yet most people have only a vague idea of what it really means. The famous three “Vs” concept – variety, volume and velocity – often comes up. But this doesn’t really capture the scope of big data.
Big data really relates to all aspects of storing, accessing and analyzing data that can’t be carried out through traditional means. That’s why data analysts and professionals in related areas are in such high demand today.
But companies wanting to make sense of big data need more than analysts – they also need executives with an equally well-informed but very different point of view.
That’s because data analysts will know how to extract, clean, analyze and store the data that has been culled from continually evolving sources. But these experts will not have the knowledge to pinpoint what specific data can make the business more competitive.
Executives will lack the technological background that can optimize how information is gathered, but they’re essential to figuring out what data will be useful for improving products and services.
Data analysts and executives are very different profiles, have different skill sets and speak different languages. The challenge for companies is to bridge the gap between them.
Firms that can get executives and IT professionals to work meaningfully together will be able to most effectively take advantage of big data. Companies will increasingly require professionals who are experts at connecting the two worlds of business and technology.
These specialists will have a deep knowledge of problems that the company is facing and how to build competitive advantage, as well as the technical knowledge and vocabulary required to inspire a team of IT experts. They can also help companies face the most important challenges posed by the digital economy.
Algorithms, for instance, are increasingly leading us to live in information silos, by deciding what we read and watch and limiting our vision of the world. Business models based on this insular approach pose certain risks for society.
Collaboration and understanding will allow executives and IT experts to provide better ideas for meeting the needs of customers, while breaking down the pervasive problem of information barriers.
And this collaborative approach would better position companies – and all of us – in the long run.
If you would like to know more about how big data is impacting business, and how you should adapt to this new digital world, join us for IESE’s “Big Data: Where to Start?” program, to be held on the Barcelona campus June 20-21.