Is Big Data intelligence a threat to company decision makers?
Big Data: answering Big Questions
Whilst the advantages for companies of analysing large volumes of data are undeniable, the growing interest in these new technologies does raise the question of the future of traditional decision-making tools and processes, and of that of the role of humans in a constantly-changing environment.
In any event, businesses need to ask themselves this: “Why implement a Big Data strategy?’’, and assess the possible benefits in terms of their plans and objectives.
Why implement a Big Data project, or identifying your ‘crunchy’ questions
- What are you objectives in terms of growth and searching for hidden insights?
- Which decisions need more insight?
- Identify how your ‘crunchy’ questions interact with your selected dataset?
These questions are the main recommendations Deloitte makes to any company considering a Big Data project. Deloitte also advises caution, saying it’s wiser to use small data in order to:
- Focus on small-scale patterns and avoid false correlations
- Work with constrained budgets and existing business intelligence tools
- Manage privacy and security risks.
- Analyse financial and accounting data, which has lower volumes and is more structured, and therefore easier to analyse with traditional tools.
All these tips are a response to the question “How to launch a big data project?”, a decision which needs to be based on an in-depth analysis of the company’s strategy and business requirements.
Big Data: where do Humans fit in?
Jane Frost, chief executive of the Market Research Society in the UK, offers some answers to this question in How do we ensure big data becomes powerful data? According to Frost, “Data should be used as an aid but not as a replacement for judgement. This means asking the right questions and having clear goals and objectives from the start.”
Two Big Data experts, also from the UK, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, agree with this view in an article on Wired, entitled: ‘’Does big data mean the demise of the expert – and Intuition?’’.
They believe that decision-makers will have to share some of their limelight with statisticians and data analysts because these will rely on correlations without preconceived ideas or prejudices.
However, the authors do stress that data isn’t everything: “What is greatest about human beings is precisely what the algorithms and silicon chips don’t reveal […] There is an essential role for people, with all our foibles, misperceptions and mistakes, since these traits walk hand in hand with human creativity, instinct, and genius.” They prove this point by quoting the late Steve Jobs, who famously relied on his instinct rather than market research and data analysis.
Big data vs. Humans: pros and cons
The debate rages on: Deloitte draw up a list of the relative merits and disadvantages of humans and data in an article called Does Big Data Still Need the Human Touch? The main benefits of Big Data include automation, large volumes of data and the elimination of human error, whilst humans have judgement, the ability to query and summarise and identify patterns that computers can’t.