For years, the “cloud” has been the king of nebulous technology terms. But there’s a new contender, it seems, based on results of a recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by SAP that asked small and midsize businesses (SMBs) about their awareness of and interest in Big Data.
The survey found that just 25 percent of 154 C-suite executives agreed on a similar definition of Big Data. Despite the lack of consensus of a Big Data definition, though, nearly 76 percent of respondents see Big Data as an opportunity.
What the Heck Is Big Data?
The largest group of respondents, 28 percent, defined Big Data as a massive growth in transaction data. This idea is mentioned frequently in discussions of Big Data. Earlier this year, in an interview with Enterprise Apps Today, venture capitalist Michael Baum, co-founder and former CEO of application management provider Splunk, offered this definition of Big Data: ”… If you're storing every scrap of raw data in whatever your application is, then you're probably Big Data."
Twenty-four percent of SAP survey respondents defined Big Data as emerging technologies that address volume, variety and velocity challenges. Another 19 percent said Big Data refers to requirements to store and archive data for regulatory compliance, and 18 percent associated Big Data with an increase in new data sources, such as social media, mobile device and machine-generated devices.
Steve Lucas, executive vice president and general manager, Database & Technology, SAP, hit upon several of those themes, saying, “Big Data is the unprecedented growth and convergence of social, device, equipment and corporate data.”
Answers from SAP’s survey mesh somewhat with results of a recent Big Data survey from data integration software provider Informatica in which 74 percent of respondents said they were dealing with growing transaction volumes. Thirty-five percent said data derived from social media sources factored into their Big Data initiatives, while 31 percent mentioned data from mobile devices and 22 percent and machine-generated data mattered to 31 percent and 22 percent of those surveyed, respectively.
What Can Be Gained from Big Data
Respondents to the SAP and Informatica surveys tapped similar benefits they hoped to derive from Big Data.
The top Big Data benefits cited by respondents to SAP’s survey were more efficient business operations, mentioned by 59 percent; boosting sales (54 percent); lowering IT costs (50 percent); becoming more agile (48 percent); and attracting and retaining customers (46 percent).
With such high expectations, it’s not surprising that 70 percent of respondents said they would expect a return on their Big Data investments within one year.
Similarly, 71 percent of respondents to Informatica’s survey said they expected that leveraging Big Data would improve the efficiency of their business operations. Fifty percent said they wanted to use Big Data to launch new products and services, while 49 percent said Big Data could help attract and retain customers.
Importance of Big Data Strategy
To realize these big ambitions for Big Data, experts say organizations need a strong business case. A six-step plan for creating a Big Data business case begins with simply asking, “What can’t we do today that Big Data would help us do?” While organizations may come up with many answers to that question, experts advise limiting scope to the top three or four business problems that can be helped with Big Data. Armed with that knowledge, map the problems to data both inside and outside the organization.
SAP’s Lucas also mentioned the importance of a Big Data strategy. “Every company should be thinking about their Big Data strategy whether they are big or small. There is an incredible amount of noise being created and without a strategy, companies will get lost in the noise,” he said.
While Big Data’s definition is still fuzzy, it seems clear the Big Data market will experience strong growth. Earlier this year IDC predicted the market for Big Data solutions will grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $16.9 billion in 2015. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent, about seven times that of the general information and communications technology market.
At least some of that growth will come from small companies, which is why SAP and other vendors are offering products geared toward the Big Data needs of SMBs.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today. Follow Enterprise Apps Today on Twitter, @EntApps2Day.