Is it time to retire B*g Data?

Before we start, why would I even start to think such a heresy? After all, I believe in Big Data, in the excitement and opportunity and possibilities and analytics and (am I beginning to sound like a fanboi here?) and and and…

Well, first a history lesson: In the early 90s there was a movement.  It was about taking a customised and analytical approach to marketing and service that allowed you to treat customers as individuals, and it promised that if you did this that you would be a better company.  You might have heard of it. It was called Customer Relationship Management.

It became a BIG THING in the heady days before the millennium, and soon everything became CRM… And nothing did.  As Syndrome put it “because when everyone is super, no one will be”.   For those of us who were involved in CRM then, and who look around now, it is amazing how little CRM changed the ways that companies do business.

In the process CRM changed its name.  it became Customer Experience Management (so I didn’t have a relationship with my bank after all), EMM (forget about the customer), VRM (like I can control Apple), or even worse JAPOS (just another piece of software).

But businesses did change, didn’t they?

What has actually changed things is the advent of Big Data, especially the limited, but special case of social media.  Not in the sense of the way that companies understand you (that is still sadly lacking), but in the way that customers interact with each other and can now know things that were previously hidden.
  • What is the second hand value of something? Thanks eBay.
  • What is the cheapest way to get something? Thanks Amazon.
  • What do people think about products or companies?  Thanks blogs and hate sites.
  • Where are things that I like? Thanks FourSquare.
  • Who do I enjoy hearing from? Thanks Facebook.
  • What pointless chatter can’t I live without today? Thanks Twitter.
All of these (and more) have effectively used mass crowdsourcing input to open up information flow in a way that wasn’t thinkable a few years ago.  They show us the route that Big Data could take… If we let it.

So why retire Big Data?

Because any day now* we’ll have SAP Big Data. Oracle Big Data. SAS Big Data. IBM Big Data.  And like CRM before it the hope that Big Data had for changing the world will fritter away on a tide of corporate blandness. **

And these companies are likely to make the most basic mistakes:
  • Big Data is about size
  • Big Data is about technology
  • Big Data is just social media
  • Big Data = big hardware and big software sales

The/My fight back starts here.

I’m going to try not to refer directly to Big Data in future. I will refer to Data Science, which I think is a more useful term anyway.  It takes things out of the realm of marketing speak and into an arena where we need to justify the use of the word science. That requires thought, and thought is good.

If I have to refer to it I will bleep it where possible.  This may require me to rewrite a large number of slides, but so be it.

I will bear in mind that there is no such thing as B*g Data.  There is just data.  And if there is a lot of it then it may be big, but it is never B*g.

*probably several months ago actually

** full disclosure, I work for Teradata an IT company that has a foot in the door. But in our defence we see B*g Data as a business thing, not a technology thing.

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