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Big Data: Two Steps in the Right Direction

Where are companies making progress in their big data and analytics work?

Big data maturity involves managing and leveraging relevant data and tools as pieces of an ecosystem that includes people, processes, and technology. As part of the TDWI Big Data Maturity Assessment (see to take the assessment), we are collecting data about the organizational, infrastructure, data management, analytics, and governance aspects of big data. Although most respondents to the assessment are still just starting out on their big data journey, it is useful to explore where companies are making progress in their big data and analytics work. Here are two areas.

A Culture that Supports Analytics

Some of the higher scores from respondents about their big data projects were in the organization dimension of the assessment. Higher, is, of course, relative. In this case, the average and median score across all responses indicate that respondents are getting closer to "agreeing" with a statement. In particular, respondents received high scores in reacting to the following statements:

  • Analytics are valued in my company
  • Creativity and innovation are valued in my company
  • People are willing to work together and share
  • Data drives decisions in my organization

The value of analytics is becoming better understood by organizations, and this is important in order to make big data projects happen. There is growing evidence that companies that utilize analytics as part of their decision-making process are stronger performers than those that? do not. In TDWI's recent Best Practices Report on predictive analytics, for example, 45 percent of the respondents who utilized this technology actually measured a positive top- or bottom-line impact.

Of course, realizing a possibility and achieving success are two different things. That is why it is important that these organizations also seem to be moving to a more collaborative, creative, and data-driven culture. If a company is data driven and innovative, it may be more likely to consider newer kinds of data as part of an analysis. If some sort of analytics culture is already in place in an organization, whether it is based on BI tools or has moved past that to more advanced analytics, that will help the drive to obtain funding, develop a proof of concept, and show measurable value. These are critical early steps in big data success.

An Understanding of Security and Compliance with Regard to Governance

Although most of the respondents taking the assessment did not have a big data governance plan in place (or an overall solid data governance plan), they did appear to understand data security, data access, and data privacy. That, too, is a good first step for big data because it indicates that there is at least some governance activity happening in these organizations. Here it seems to be data protection activity, and it is certainly important for organizations to understand data protection options.

Data governance is important to your enterprise no matter what your data sources are or how they are managed. When we spoke to people implementing big data as part of our research into the big data maturity model, many told us they didn't have time for governance because they were moving too fast. This was especially true for Internet-based businesses. As big data and big data analytics efforts grow, however, it will become more important than ever to understand issues such as data provenance, data ownership, and metadata. We have seen these issues come back to bite people.

In some ways it is not surprising that these are the areas where companies scored relatively well, and it speaks to an important point. Organizations should build on what they already have in their big data efforts. Leveraging what currently works in new efforts makes sense. Building on a culture that is starting to embrace analytics is important, as is putting the building blocks in place for security and governance. These are important steps in the right direction for big data efforts.

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