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Cutting through the Hype of Big Data

A key to getting the most from big data is to separate hype from facts. TDWI World Conference keynoter Bill Franks helps you discover which is which.

By Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer, Teradata

[ Editor's note: Bill Franks will be presenting a keynote address, "Cutting through the Hype: What You Really Need to Know about Big Data" on Thursday, May 9 at the TDWI World Conference in Chicago.]

The TDWI World conference in Chicago promises to be a terrific source of information about the evolving world of big data, but what does the show's title "The Big Data Tipping Point: Preparing for the Practical Realities of Big Data" mean? To me, it means that it is time to move beyond the hype and start focusing people on how to truly make the analysis of big data a reality in their organizations.

For those of us who have been involved in the world of data warehousing and analytics for a while, big data has certainly driven some changes to our thinking. However, I believe that for an organization that has successfully driven its business higher through the effective use of data and analytics in the past, big data can be a natural evolution that doesn't require nearly as much pain as the hype suggests.

In my World Conference keynote, I plan to address a variety of points that I see recurring again and again as I talk to organizations about their plans and challenges with the collection and analysis of big data. Some of the points will be specific to big data, while others are tied to lessons from the past that we can't afford to forget.

One portion of my keynote will discuss how to establish the value proposition of big data as well as the mindset you need to have as you begin to pursue it. There are so many examples of new, powerful, big data sources that I'm amazed. Over my years of developing analytic processes, we'd be lucky to have a single new data source to add to the mix every few years. Suddenly, there are industries with multiple new data sources becoming available all at once. We've shifted from a struggle to find enough data to struggling with how to handle everything we have coming at us. We used to wish for more data. Big data is an example of how you have to be careful what you wish for!

Another area I'll discuss will be several common misconceptions about big data. In the hype, the differences between our traditional data and analytics processes and those tied to big data are often the focus. However, there are also many common threads, and understanding these commonalities can make your life much easier. When a new tool or technology is needed to handle a given requirement, then by all means pursue it. At the same time, it is silly to complicate your life with new tools and technologies in cases where what you have already can meet your needs. Start with your requirements and then figure out what you need to meet them. Don't blindly dive into novel big data tools, techniques, and technologies just because they are the hot trend.

I'll also talk about some of the organizational, policy, and process considerations that are required for utilizing big data effectively. Is everything you learned over the years now worthless? Do your approaches to analytics have to be tossed aside? Do you need to throw out all your policies and start anew?

Luckily, the answer to all is a firm "no." Certainly, you'll need to make adjustments in all of these areas to account for big data, but those adjustments needn't disrupt your entire organization. You've made constant adjustments in the past as your analytics and your data evolved (and will continue to do so in the future). Don't let yourself and your organization be intimidated by the hype you're hearing. You have what it takes to meet the challenge.

The World Conference will offer a wide range of educational sessions. The more that those of us in the data and analytics space can come to a common understanding of what big data is all about and how to handle it, the better we'll be able to help it reach its potential. I believe that the tipping point we are approaching will lead to great things in the coming years. Just as those who first saw the potential of the Internet were able to watch it grow and succeed, so will those of us who first saw the potential of big data be able to see it grow and succeed as we move beyond the hype and prepare for the practical realities of big data.

Come to Chicago with your "learning hats" on and be prepared to focus. My goal is to provide you with some new insights during my session and I look forward to the interactions I will have with other attendees. It is exciting to be a part of a major tipping point and I can't wait to see where it leads.

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