SAS helps to clarify the Big Data issue

Despite misconceptions surrounding Big Data, there is no question about its relevance and the opportunity that exists in the adoption and integration of this trend in commerce.

Craig Stephens, Principle Solution manager – Information Management Practice, SAS Institute South Africa. (Image source: SAS Africa)

This is the view expressed by Craig Stephens, Principle Solution manager – Information Management Practice, SAS Institute South Africa.

Reflecting on a lively discussion on the topic- Big Data Analytics: Using Big Data Analytics to Enhance the Customer Experience, held on 21 May at Tech Demo Africa 2013, Stephens acknowledged that the subject was an emotional one.

According to Stephens, Big Data is not a new phenomenon – businesses have always had to manage data effectively and use this resource strategically.

“Going by traditional definition, it refers to the volume of data, the variety of data – different types of data, basically any digital source. The third component is volume – it is a lot. Big Data describes a scenario in which the volume of data exceeds your organisation’s ability to timeously process information. So the industry has named the issue ‘big data’ – but it has always been there, we have always had a challenge, we are just giving it a name now,” he says.

By way of clarification, Stephens explains that there are two approaches or schools of thought that exist in the market regarding this issue.

The first is Big Data management whereby, typically, there is an attempt to apply traditional data management approaches to all of this data and velocity. The objective is to manage, load and store all this additional data.

The combination of internal and external data, as well as the management of social media feeds, is creating a conundrum for businesses.

Stephens emphasises the ‘time’ aspect of this process and the need for businesses to respond to a crisis and do so by acquiring, processing and taking action in realtime.

One of the key challenges in the market today is that companies enforce policies that limit users’ ability to extract and use information for the benefit of the business he continues.

“So, for example, a policy will dictate that access to data can only be granted when data resides in the warehouse. This can be problematic from a project management point of view,” he adds.

The second approach – and where the real value of big data lies, is that of big data analytics says Stephens. It is important to secure the relevance of the information in order to ensure its value to the organisation he says.

The SAS approach is to stream, store and then share information, which frees up analytics and strategic use.

Ultimately, according to Stephens, it will take a focused, deliberate and ongoing market education process to clarify misunderstanding that has been caused by mixed messaging around Big Data in the market.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor