Big Data and my simple view of the world

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For a while now, I've had this working theory of the business world. In short, there are three types of people: 1) those who get it; 2) those that don’t get it but want to get it; and 3) those that don’t get it and don’t want to get it.

The more that I learn about Big Data, the more that my universal theory seems to hold up. In the case of Big Data, I'd characterize these three groups of people as follows:

  • The Dataphiles: those that get it
  • The Open-Minded: those that don’t get it but want to get it
  • The Dataphobes: those that don’t get it and don’t want to get it

I'm somewhat conflicted about the fact that my simple view seems to apply to the Big Data world. On one hand, I like knowing that one of my main business theories seems to hold up here. Yes, ERP and CRM applications are in many ways different than Big Data, its techniques, and its solutions. (I'd stop short of saying that sentiment analysis, Hadoop, columnar databases, and the like are completely different than Enterprise 1.0 tools. I'd argue that all emerging technologies should address the same fundamental goal: to help the enterprise in some important way.)

On the other hand, one would hope that all people would fall into the first or at least second group--i.e., that they would understand that data can be a tremendous business asset, as Tony Fisher writes in The Data Asset. Lamentably, data resistance is alive and well in many organizations, departments, groups, and countries.

Simon Says

I know enough about the history of technology to realize that there will always be early adopters and laggards. This is true now, and it will be true in ten years. It's not hard to understand why the CIO of a conservative, budget-challenged organization is loathe to be the first jump on the Big Data train. I get it. Rewards will often accrue in the long term, and even then they may be uncertain. As more and more Big Data case studies become available, I have no doubt that more and more people will join the movement than join the dataphile group.

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Is your organization on board with Big Data? Why or why not?

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About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack for Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business (Department of Information Systems). He also runs 5marbles, an Agile software-development shop.

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