Big data, data discovery and new tools


While not quite at the level of big data, data discovery is attracting a good bit of attention these days. I explore both topics in The Visual Organization and Too Big to Ignore.

It's only fair for people to ask if their legacy reporting tools support big data and data discovery. In short, the answer is no. In this post, I explain why.

Good news...sort of

By way of background, traditional BI applications and data warehouses were designed to handle relatively large amounts of structured, transactional and table-friendly information. They still can do this. Employees can still explore large datasets via OLAP cubes. Standard reports and SQL statements retrieve information from relational databases. Essential financial, inventory and payroll reports continue to inform myriad business decisions.

Collectively, these all provide valuable insights into organizations. Big data does not change that. All of these aren't going anywhere. Reporting tools, dashboards and KPIs are not going to become moot anytime soon. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here's the bad news, though. The arrival of big data has, at a high level, lessened the overall impact of those tools. Put differently, while big data does not not obviate the need for dashboards, KPIs and standard reports, these stalwarts can no longer tell the whole story of a department or organization's health or its customers. They cannot easily determine customer or employee sentiment. They cannot handle petabytes of unstructured data in photos, blog posts, social data, video content and the like.

It's never been more critical to explore increasingly large datasets without knowing what we'll find. This runs counter to the notion of creating standard reports and dashboards, the creation of which entails "beginning with the end in mind." To that end, it's best to ignore Stephen Covey.

Simon says

More than ever, it's essential for employees, groups, departments and organizations to be curious – and this curiosity requires new applications and technologies.


What say you?


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.

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