When it comes to Big Data, knowledge is low while expectations are high – a tricky combination.
CompTIA, a non-profit IT industry association, released a study in which it found just 37 percent of IT and business executives report being very familiar or mostly familiar with the concept of Big Data.
"As expected for an emerging technology with an evolving definition, many executives are still moving along the Big Data learning curve," says Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA.
Moving Ahead on Big Data
Surveys from recent months hint at the steepness of the curve. In an SAP-commissioned study involving small and midsize businesses (SMBs), just 25 percent agreed on a similar definition for Big Data.
This relative lack of knowledge isn't dissuading companies from embarking on Big Data initiatives. Some one in five businesses surveyed by CompTIA claim to already be involved in a Big Data project, while 36 percent plan to embark on one in the next 12 months.
A survey by data integration software provider Informatica found similar numbers. According to that survey, 70 percent of organizations are currently considering, planning, testing or running Big Data projects. Among those, 20 percent are already operating Big Data projects, 13 percent are currently in testing and 22 percent are in the planning stages.
Slightly more than a third of respondents to the CompTIA survey say they are exactly or very close to where they want to be in managing and using data. In particular, companies are challenged by unstructured data from relatively new sources like social media. Just 20 percent of respondents say they are doing well at analyzing Web traffic patterns, for example, while only 12 percent feel their companies succeed at social media monitoring.
Big Data Challenges
"Basic work needs to be done before many companies are ready for a Big Data initiative," Herbert says. "Many companies are still struggling with analytics, storage, backup and business continuity."
Among the data-related challenges mentioned by CompTIA survey respondents:
- Nearly three in four companies report a high or moderately high degree of data silos within their organization, making it difficult to obtain a holistic view of data.
- Many lack a complete or accurate understanding of their data profile, especially as it relates to unstructured data such as audio and video files and social streams of data.
- Just one in three companies have a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery plan.
Big Data Skills Shortage
Organizational silos contribute to another Big Data challenge, a lack of comprehensive data skills.
"Big Data initiatives often require bringing together technical, analytical, statistical and creative thinking skills," Herbert says. "Historically, these skill sets have been somewhat compartmentalized, a situation many companies will need to address."
Fifty-three percent of respondents intend to invest in training to further develop the skills of current employees, while 32 percent expect to explore hiring options to add new staff with the desired expertise. Training existing staff is a strategy supported by the McKinsey Institute in its 2011 report on Big Data.
Not surprisingly, the most desired skills for Big Data, mentioned by 51 percent of CompTIA respondents, are strategic planning and developing long-term roadmaps for data, storage and related areas. Among the other areas in which companies want to further develop Big Data skills and capabilities:
- 45 percent – Business continuity and disaster recovery
- 28 percent – Regulatory compliance and best practices related to retention, encryption and other data security practices
- 27 percent – Cloud-based data storage
Training and hiring aren't the only options for obtaining Big Data skills. Twenty-eight percent of respondents to the CompTIA survey say they plan to contract with an IT solution provider or vendor for services ranging from integrating cloud storage to deploying predictive analytics applications.
Vendors have to be excited about the prospects for Big Data business with outlooks like one from IDC, which predicts the market for Big Data solutions will grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $16.9 billion in 2015.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today.