The concept of big data is an overarching term that refers to the mass quantities of information that is used to provide businesses with useful insights that can give them an edge in a competitive world. Read on for more about what this makes up this concept and the practical ways the information is utilized across industries.

Summary of the Process

Today’s companies want to know specific, measurable figures regarding the demographics of their customer base, the efficiency of their operation and what makes their internal processes flow, among other such data. These types of insights require a team of skilled professionals to oversee, manage, collect and analyze. The results are then used to guide decision making within organizations with the end goal being higher profits and improved business function. It’s an incredibly complex process, but all types of organizations see the value it can bring, so they continue to find ways to improve upon and refine the endeavor.

The Four Vs

It is commonly espoused that there are four concepts that make up the collective of information known as big data. The first is volume. This is what makes the data “big.” The sheer amount of data that is being collected by small businesses, corporations, educational institutions, governments and other organizations is simply astounding. The types of insights collected range from exceedingly specific to more general, as organizations are seeking any insight that can give them a leg up in improving their products or services, satisfying their customers or outperforming their competition.

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Next comes variety, which involves the different types of data collected. In this context, there is structured and unstructured data. Structured refers to easily definable items such as amounts of money or quantities of goods. Unstructured data is a bit more complicated and is comprised of variables that are more difficult to measure such as social media content or photos. These are the kinds of insights organizations are trying to capture.

Veracity is how trustworthy your data is. All the work involved in the process is useless unless the methods of collecting, measuring and analyzing the data are accurate. That’s why tremendous care is used when it comes to setting up the procedures involved in this data capture and in employing experts who understand each step.

Finally, there’s velocity. This term is used in reference to how quickly the data is arriving or being collected. Some types of information are generated in a steady stream, while others will be more sporadic. Different methods must be used to handle each type.

The Big Picture

The result of all the work that goes into this process, the sum of the four V’s, is actually a fifth V. That V stands for value. The value derived from crunching the numbers, analyzing the data and developing the systems differs for each organization within each industry. Some examples of outcomes from the this data mining process include such tangible effects as the creation of new products, discoveries that lead to medical cures, opportunities for cross-selling, cost-saving measures and improved service delivery methods for communities. The possibilities are immense.

Organizations both big and small, private and public rely on the capture and use of all types of data. This big data leads to results that were not possible even a decade ago, and will continue to lead to increased growth and opportunities as processes are refined.