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IT, operational procedures have to adjust to big data

Ben Farrell
August 13, 2012

The movement surrounding big data involves aligning information from unstructured, structured and transactional sources into usable knowledge that can provide strategic guidance for businesses. Accomplishing this involves storing and analyzing customer-created content from social media sites, data gathered by monitoring systems in mobile devices, application information and other forms of content that can be difficult to coherently track. According to a recent J.P. Morgan study, big data is becoming a strategically important movement in the enterprise, but is incredibly difficult to deal with.

J.P. Morgan found big data creates major challenges because it combines issues of scale and complexity. On one hand, businesses have to manage extremely large quantities of information that has to be stored in a cohesive way. At the same time, that data is emerging in a variety of formats, from a diverse range of sources and is needed for different purposes. Because of this, organizations have to find a way to not only develop a working system to organize and store information effectively, they also have to develop metadata systems that provide context for the information. Otherwise, analysis can be overwhelming.

Essentially, big data systems look a lot like an insect colony, the news source explained. The incredibly large quantity of data combines with the diverse ranges of sources to make the storage system look like an overly complex swarm of information that does not make any sense. Similarly, an anthill can look like chaos as bugs walk on top of each other and move haphazardly through tunnels and chambers trying to reach a destination unknown to the casual observer. But a close analysis of insect life reveals that there is actually a staggering amount of order to life in the colony. Similarly, a big data system needs solutions that impose order on the chaotic storage and analysis environment.

One way to enable big data to work effectively from an operational standpoint, not just at the storage level, is to use business process management software. The technology automates many of the tedious processes involved with adding context to information, accessing the right databases for certain functions and organizing data in light of use requirements. As a result, employees using mobile devices, operating out of the cloud or running applications on traditional desktop computers in the office can access the data they need in such a way that the technology aligns with their process requirements, leading to major business gains.