Big Data, Big Risk

Michal Halama
Michal Halama

Summary Bullets:

  • Big data solutions are improving management information
  • Big data market growth means buyers need help to recognize where management information is decisive

Organizations in all industries have come to use measurement of more and more aspects of markets and the workplace to provide management with data to make informed decisions. In many cases, the more information, the less room for error, and management decisions improve. For instance, trivial matters or decisions that need to be made innumerable times so that only machines can make them efficiently.

In some organizations, however, compiling numbers and effectively letting them ‘make decisions’ have subordinated understanding of the business and markets themselves. Is there anyone out there who has not met a manager who sometimes treats the result of a formula as the decision itself rather than an element in the decision process? This may be no more than the old complaint about ‘bean counters’ taking over – the plot of many movies that mix business with sentiment.

Enter big data – the market is growing because big data technology promises that more and wider data is captured and correlated to improve the quality of information, and therefore the decisions that are made. This can, though, unduly raise the confidence of bean counters, and put more experienced managers (or those gifted with business instinct) on the back-foot if their expertise leads them to disagree with conclusions direct from the data.

Overconfidence in big data may lead to environments where alternative judgments are treated as irrational, exacerbating and spreading the ‘measure and conclude = decision’ cultures, creating managers less practiced in making business decisions. Buyers should be aware of this growing risk, and build frameworks and corporate cultures that avoid blind faith in big data.

Today’s big data services are delivering on capturing and correlating more data, but proponents admit that there is much more to do. In other words there are big gaps – bigger gaps than there are relevant data, and some of the data already captured will turn out not to be relevant after all. There is the potential for costly mistakes made as a result of customers relying improperly on big data to make decisions for them. A growing market means new buyers. If you are a buyer, budget for extra help with how you use the results of big data, as well as buying the raw service.

Many IT service providers offer big data services, some concentrate on delivering technology and making sure the system and services stay operational. They may provide migration and set up, but often shy away from claiming business consulting expertise. But today’s big data is new for everyone, IT service providers have as much experience (and sometimes more) with today’s big data as business consultants.

IT service providers have an opportunity, and a duty, to sell buyers added value through strategies and methodologies for using big data. They can draw upon the aggregated experience of earlier customers to help buyers identify where big data can effectively ‘make a decision’ and where organizations need more considered decisions – that is, identify where to call upon the experience and instinct of managers to make rational decisions, with the benefit of big data.


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