Five Key Big Data Challenges Companies Need To Overcome When Developing A Big Data Strategy

Developing a Big Data strategy for your organisations is not a simple task. It will take perseverance, trial and error and a cultural change to become a truly data-driven, information-centric organisation. For a lot of organisations, Big Data is still difficult to understand (27% of companies surveyed in a recent survey by Jaspersoft), while 20% of the organisations do not see a business justification to start with Big Data. What does it take to bring your organisation to the next level and to start developing a Big Data strategy? Here are five key big data challenges that you need to overcome in order to successfully implement a Big Data strategy:

Big Data will Increase IT Dependency

In the past years, IT has become a lot more important for many organisations and in the coming years we will see, with the appearance of the Internet of Things and the Industrial internet, that many currently unconnected devices will become datafied and start generating vast amounts of data. For companies that develop offline products and only use IT for their website, this will mean a rigorous change. In the coming years, IT will become a central part of all business units. Big Data will infiltrate and affect all departments within your organisation and that requires a different way of working.

So apart from being able to access the data, Big Data will become an essential part of the different departments and consequently require IT staff of their own. For many organisations, IT will form a much more important aspect of their company and for currently ‘offline companies’ this is a major shift that needs to overcome.

The Big Data Business Case is Difficult to Determine in the Beginning

In almost any organisation, it is important to build a business case before a Big Data project can be started. However, the challenge with Big Data projects is that defining the Return On Investment (ROI) is rather difficult, as Big Data requires new hardware and software and a new way of working. For any organisation in any industry, Big Data offers different possibilities and the results are therefore also different.  In order to be able to determine the ROI, organisation should start with a pilot project, which is also a learning experience and will give more insights in the ROI of projects that follow after.

The challenge to overcome is therefore that without a Big Data project finished, it is difficult to determine a valid ROI, however without a clear ROI a ‘Go’ for the Big Data project becomes rather difficult. The only way to overcome this challenge is to just start with a small, well defined, pilot project, see it as an investment that does not have to bring a return per se, but will teach you a lot about what Big Data can mean for your organisation. The experiences gained and lessons learned during the pilot project can be used to better determine the ROI for future projects.

Data Within Organisations often Resides in Silos

To make the most of Big Data, it is all about combining different data sources. Although one of the components of Big Data is Volume it is much more about combining data. Big Data becomes Mixed Data as I described in the Big Data trends for 2014. However, the problem is that if different departments within an organisation collect data, they most probably do this separately and make it difficult to share the data within the organisation, although most probably not done deliberately. Nike for example, used to have their data stored across the entire organisation, thereby limiting what could be done with the data. They removed the silos and combined all data in one central platform, accessible by all employees based on their role. This enabled Nike to innovate and stay ahead of their competitors.

Apart from the data silos within an organisation, companies should also look outside and start thinking of new data sets that can be used. Combining open and social media data or public data can provide great insights. Organisations should start thinking out-of-the-box when developing a Big Data strategy and not limited themselves to the data that is already available within their organisation.

Ensure the Privacy of Customers, while Making the Most of Your Data

After the all the leaked documents by Snowden, privacy might seem a thing of the past, but if organisations deal with their data correctly, this does not have to be the case. Privacy is still an extremely valuable right for consumers that should be protected. Organisations should therefore try to find the right balance between the use of data for profit and the privacy of their customers.

In order to do this, organisations should start to be open and transparent towards their customers regarding what they do with their data, what they collect and why they collect, store and analyse that data. In addition, they should make it simple for customers to make adjustments regarding what data and the amount of data that is collected and how it can be used. Finally, security should be key for companies and they should do what it takes to prevent data breaches. We have seen too many data breaches in the past years that for sure negatively impact the privacy of consumers.

Finding the right balance between the privacy of your customers and the Return on Data is difficult, but in the long run the Return on Data will be higher if you successfully protect the privacy of your customers.

Big Data Requires a Cultural Change

In many organisations, there are change-averse managers that do not believe in the power of data and are holding back a transformation to a data-driven, information-centric organisation. They do not trust the data and prefer to rely on their gut feeling when making decisions and therefore they do not see the need to become more data-driven. In fact, as IBM discovered, 1 in 3 business leaders do not trust the information they receive to make decisions

The veracity of the data is therefore extremely important. This means that organisations need to ensure that the data is actually correct as well as the algorithms performing the analyses are correct in order to ensure that the information derived from the data is correct. This requires a cultural shift and it convincing all business leaders to trust the data and the derived-information will be a major challenge when developing a Big Data strategy. In order to overcome this challenge, organisations should spend sufficient time and energy to educate the employees and managers in dealing with data and using the data to make the right decisions. This is time-consuming, as creating trust always is.

Although developing a Big Data strategy is difficult, these Big Data challenges should not hold you back to start developing one. Organisations, small or large, should start seeing the value in the data at hand and the possibilities of combining that data with other data sets and analysing it for insights. For those organisations that have successfully implemented a Big Data strategy, it was never an easy task but the results are impressive.

Image Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock
Dr Mark van Rijmenam
Dr Mark van Rijmenam

Dr Mark van Rijmenam is The Digital Speaker. He is a future tech strategist who thinks about how technology changes organisations, society and the metaverse. Dr Mark van Rijmenam is an international keynote speaker, 4x author and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Datafloq and the author of the book on the metaverse: Step into the Metaverse: How the Immersive Internet Will Unlock a Trillion-Dollar Social Economy detailing what the metaverse is and how organizations and consumers can benefit from the immersive internet.

He is the publisher of the ‘f(x) = e^x‘ newsletter, read by thousands of executives, on the future of work and the organization of tomorrow. The Digital Speaker has spoken in 20 countries across the globe and collectively inspired over 100.000 managers, directors and C-level executives.

Dr Mark van Rijmenam is The Digital Speaker. He is a future tech strategist who thinks about how emerging technologies change organizations, society and the metaverse. Van Rijmenam is an international keynote speaker, 4x author and entrepreneur.

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