What is Big Data, and why does it matter?

Here we help you to understand the potential of big data, how to harness it and how it can help unlock a multitude of opportunities for your business.

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You probably already use some data management and visualisation tools in your business. Yet, you might not 100% understand why, or realise the power you have at your fingertips. By understanding the potential of big data and how to harness this, you will unlock a multitude of opportunities for your business.

What is Big Data?

Oxford Languages defines big data as the following:

“extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.”

While that is a fantastic definition of what big data "is" as an individual entity, it is also possible to refer to big data as a specialised field. Some people define big data as the act of analysing and acting upon data, rather than the data itself.

The 7 Vs of Big Data

The concept of big data has been in mainstream use since the early 2000s. When the big data concept was first brought forward, it centred around “the 3 Vs.” As the idea of big data has continued to evolve, further “Vs” have been added, with commentators referring to the 4, 5, or 7 Vs. We provide an overview of all 7 Vs and their meaning in a big data context below.

The Vs model of looking at big data has been subject to criticism for focusing mainly on information technology and scalability of data, rather than the understandability and perception of data. However, the Vs model remains the most widely cited explainer of big data in use today.

The below table summarises the 7 Vs of big data. Volume, Velocity, and Variety were the original 3 Vs.

The 7 Vs of Big Data
Volume The data we have. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), innovations such as smart and connected homes, and products like smartphone apps collecting data around the clock, the volume of data being held is growing exponentially.
Velocity The speed at which data is collected and at which businesses can act on it. Today, many companies can analyse and work on data in real-time rather than experiencing a delay.
Variety The different types of data you can collect. In a big data context, data is usually referred to as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured.
Veracity This refers to the accuracy of data. Modern big data processing platforms include filters to remove inaccurate information from your data sets. Wave goodbye to people called Mickey Mouse and those who live in Toy Town populating your data sets and contact lists!
Value The value you and your business gets from the data you collect, process, organise, and visualise.
Variability The different ways in which data can be organised and presented. Optimising this factor becomes increasingly challenging the more data we have and the more it changes.
Visualisation How you use charts and graphs to visualise your data. With so much data volume, being able to get a snapshot via an intuitive and accessible chart or graph is far more efficient than looking at an Excel spreadsheet!

What is Big Data analytics?

Big data analytics refers to the practice of analysing big data. Big data tools will help you to meet your aims within the 7 Vs and make smart decisions about your data to grow your business as a result.

It is also worth noting that different big data tools will help you achieve specific outcomes.

The tools essentially do different things. A lead management tool like Serio Verify is excellent for automating lead generation and managing data. In contrast, Google Analytics is crucial for understanding how users interact with your website and informing you of opportunities to improve.

Use cases: why does Big Data matter for businesses and lawyers?

The easiest way to explain why big data matters is to look at the broad range of tasks your business can do using big data. Perhaps the most significant benefit of working with more comprehensive datasets is it becomes much easier to identify trends and outliers. Once you can visualise and identify these, you can then react accordingly based on the data. Big data also makes it far easier to benchmark and set performance levels at which you will intervene.

Below are some of the most crucial business functions you can address using big data.

Product development and inventory management

What does your data tell you about your customer's habits? Do they buy specific types of products at a particular time of the year? If you sell several varieties of a particular product, does one consistently sell at a higher rate than others?

Big data will help you decide what products to sell and when to sell them, and what else you might want to consider including in your range. As well as being great for selling, using big data in this way will help you manage liabilities and cash flow, too!

Predictive and preventative maintenance

If you run a SaaS platform, big data can help you identify pain points for users and take action to help ease these. For example, if the number of requests through your API peaks at 2 pm on Monday, and this slows down your platform, you can explore ways to remedy the situation.

Customer experience

A platform we mentioned earlier, Google Analytics, is excellent for getting an idea of how customers interact with and experience your website. Still, your use of big data analytics does not have to stop with analysing how long people spend on your site and the journey they take through your pages. You can use heatmapping to understand with greater precision what users look at on your pages or understand how useful your on-site chatbot function is.

Fraud prevention and compliance

Often, data outliers or unusual patterns will function as an early warning system against fraud. By working with a larger dataset, you will find it easier to identify potential attempts to hack your website and steal data.

In this context, your use of big data will also help you maintain compliance and reduce the likelihood of getting fined due to a data breach.

Machine learning

Big data gives you a massive opportunity to use automation throughout your business processes. Add machine learning to this, and some of your automated business processes will be able to optimise themselves, giving you time back to focus elsewhere.

Improving operational efficiency

Operational efficiency might not be the most glamorous business sub-topic in the world. Still, it could easily be the area where big data helps you make the most significant gains.

Big data can help you analyse everything from how long specific tasks take to labour planning to deal with customer demand. Not only will this directly influence your profitability, but you can improve customer service metrics and even your recruitment processes! Use big data to analyse how you are working and challenge yourself around where you can make improvements.

Driving innovation

In truth, the potential for big data to drive innovation is limitless. You might look at everything from the impact of dynamic pricing to generating ideas for new product and service types.

Big Data and GDPR

The adoption of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had the potential to cause several big data legal issues for companies. However, adapting to the GDPR landscape proved to be straightforward. The most significant change from an operational perspective was an increased reliance on real-time analytics. Making this shift enabled businesses to quickly visualise data while limiting what they needed to hold, making it easier to achieve compliance.

Key takeaways

The potential opportunities you can harness using big data are clear. Best of all, you probably do not need to do anything differently in terms of gathering this data. You will already be using a variety of platforms to collect and analyse data.

All you need to do is better understand how you can use big data to drive your business growth. Combine what you now know about the 7 Vs with our examples of what big data can help you achieve and turn your data into actions and long-term success!

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