Are you truly ready for big data? How to spot the signs in five key business battlegrounds

Big data is being generated by everything around us. In fact, according to Forbes, ‘we are at the beginning of a revolution that will impact every business and every life on the planet’.

While the frequently proposed model of volume, velocity, and variety has been well publicised, to harness the potential of big data, businesses must understand the challenges that come with both collecting and analysing it.

The CIO/CDO, as the chief orchestrator behind its adoption, must assess the current organisational capabilities to determine where the gaps are and whether they are ready to start the adoption as well as ensuring a uniform approach across the entire organisation to ensure alignment.

In today’s digital age, having huge volumes of data is hardly a rarity. The boom in smartphones ensures that companies can gather more data on consumers than ever before while the rise of the Internet of Things is only adding to this on a daily basis.

Looking ahead, businesses will have even more information on customers as they begin to use one-on-one messaging channels to interact directly with them.

This is throwing up game changing evolutions in the fields of healthcare, scientific research, agriculture, logistics, urban design, energy, retailing and crime reduction to name just a few.

> See also: Machine learning set to unlock the power of big data

Yet, despite the huge strides made in the adoption of big data, much of the business and public sector world is still playing catch up. Many are only just waking up to the realisation that data is a valuable asset that needs simultaneously protecting and exploiting.

The fact is, data is not simply collected – it is manufactured. There are always questions about how businesses choose what to measure, how they measure it, where they get it from, who will do the analysis and what it adds to the bottom line.

How does a business even know it is ready for big data? Here are five areas to look at when considering big data adoption:


In almost all businesses today, technology is prevalent somewhere. That much is clear. However, when it comes to big data, in order to fully take advantage of what it can offer, a business must be able to integrate big data technologies to its existing infrastructure without compromising or overburdening legacy systems that were never built to manage such a workload.

This poses a further challenge. Namely, how to choose the right big data tools that can be integrated and build an architecture that is scalable and able to grow with the accelerating pace of emerging big data technologies? It is vital businesses have the capacity to grow alongside the volume and variety of data that is being process in order to to deliver meaningful insights.


Businesses looking at operational improvement should look no further. From decision making to innovation, virtually every area of a business can be improved significantly through the adoption of big data management.

Increased informational transparency, improved managerial decision-making, narrower customer analysis, risk minimisation, product development and supply chain efficiencies, the list goes on.

However, even if a business recognises this, it must ensure it has a data centre equipped to respond appropriately to the changing nature of how the business is using data and what this is doing to the wider business needs.

Business development

Using big data to the best of its capabilities requires adopting a company wide approach – not just in one or two areas that are of strategic value to the business. The reality of today is the emergence of big data provides a competitive advantage for those businesses engaging with it properly. In fact, those that harness big data faster than their competitors will have almost an unfair advantage.  

According to a report published by The McKinsey Global Institute (The opportunities in business and government of using big data), the use of big data is becoming a key way for leading companies to outperform their peers.

It estimates that ‘a retailer embracing big data has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60%’. There are other examples in industries such as financial services and insurance.


Even if a business has all the component parts in place for big data adoption, it must ensure it is being run in a way that complements, rather than jars, against other business processes.

This means dedicated and consistent management that supports a broader company strategy with information being passed in the right directions at the right times. As organisations need to crunch more data, more efficiently, they will need staff that understand how it works and how to manage it.

> See also: What are the numbers, facts and figures behind big data?

A position in the company dedicated to data and being the conduit through which all key decisions and information flows. This has never been more critical following the announcement of the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Businesses now have to align their IT governance and data protection programs with these new regulatory and customer demands to avoid fines and remain within the parameters of security, compliance and regulations.


In many cases, the adoption of big data still needs driving through. This means having people around the boardroom table that are tuned-in to its potential. This has led to a rise of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) – the one person who brings together the technology and business strategy, who understands the value big data adoption can generate and is capable of articulating its benefits to the wider company.

These internal evangelists understand that tomorrow’s leaders will take a role in shaping and directing big data projects so it is key they continue to champion its cause, it relevancy to the wider business and understand the parameters needed for success.

Sourced from Mike Merritt-Holmes, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Big Data Partnership(BDP)

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics