data, the combined billions of pieces of information available
electronically, can be expected to change the whole realm of managerial
decision making, according to Tom Davenport, a business analyst and the President's Distinguished Professor in Management and Information Technology at Babson College.
Davenport, the author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities, describes the challenges and changes he anticipates in an interview with Strategy+Business.
For starters, much of the data used in big data analysis is
unstructured, which means it takes considerable time and effort to get
it into a format that allows for analysis, and even then it's not always
easy to get shades of meaning. Another problem, he says, the sheer
speed and volume of data makes it hard for businesses to use it for
that can develop high speed decision making capabilities in response to
the speed of big data will be taking a big step forward, he told the
magazine. He notes that Peter Drucker warned 20 years ago that
corporate IT's reliance on internal data created a dangerous focus on
inward costs and efforts. But big data will create a healthier focus,
Davenport says, because so much of it comes from external sources-from
social media, data gathered from macro economics, science, politics and
weather. Companies that learn how to include this external data in their
models for decision making will have better ideas on how successful
particular products and marketing campaigns might be.
For example, Davenport cites the company Recorded Future,
which scans vast amounts of information on the Internet-news
publications, government web sites, financial data bases, trade
publications and blogs-and analyzes content to forecast future events.
Davenport notes intelligence agencies use Recorded Future data
to assess potential for terrorism, and private companies use it to
evaluate their competition, their present and potential markets, and
changes among customers or suppliers that might impact their success.
data may produce surprising changes in healthcare. Technology experts
expect that wearable devices that record and monitor people's bodily
functions will increase quantity and potential uses of data in health
data bases. Social media is already a rich source of new heath
information. In a recent New York Times column, economist Eduardo Porter described research indicating analysis of the way a woman used the first person singular in her Twitter
posts provided an uncannily accurate prediction of her odds of
suffering post partum depression. Researchers from Georgia Institute of
Technology and Microsoft analyzed two years Twitter posts
from four cities in Mexico and identified numbness and other mental
health issues among bystanders who had witnessed violence resulting from
activities of drug cartels. They said the findings had potential to
provide mental health resources and other aid to impacted groups and