ImageA Big Data study from 2013 by Tata Consulting Services showed that 47% of the 1217 firms surveyed had not yet undertaken a Big Data initiative. A similar research project by the SAS Institute in 2013 revealed that 21% of the 339 companies questioned did not know enough about Big Data and 15% of the organisations did not understand the benefits of Big Data. Several other surveys show more or less the same picture.  Many organisations have no idea what Big Data is, even though all those brontobytes heading our way will change the way organisations operate and are managed. Big Data offers a lot of opportunities for organisations. An IBM 2010 Global CFO Study indicated that companies leveraging Big Data would financially outperform their competitors by 20% or more, and McKinsey reported a potential increase of 60% in operating margins with Big Data.

Although many organisations do not yet understand Big Data, it is pouring into all organisations from almost every angle imaginable. Every day, small and medium-sized enterprises can easily collect terabytes of data, while startups can effortlessly reach gigabytes and large multinationals can even generate petabytes without any problem. However, simply having massive amounts of data is not enough to become an information-centric organisation that stays ahead of its competition.

Note that I deliberately do not call these organisations data-driven organisations, but rather information-centric. The difference might seem subtle, but in fact the two terms are very different. Data, after all, is useless without the right tools at hand and the right culture in place. Only when data is transformed into information can it become valuable for an organisation. Information-centric companies have a culture that relies on data that is stored, analysed, and visualized, and in which the results form an integral part of the company’s strategic decision-making.

According to Paul Kent, Global vice president of Big Data at SAS, 37% of managers surveyed still base their decision on gut feelings, instead of data analytics. A precondition for an information-centric company is therefore a cultural shift that allows data and the tools required to analyse and visualize it to be accessible to large groups within the organisation so that the decision will not be based on raw estimates.

Big data will change how organisations are structured and managed. It will affect all departments, from those that deal with the core activities of an organisation, such as operations or manufacturing of products, to supporting departments, such as human resources.

The challenge organisations will face in the coming years is how to become information-centric organisations that make decisions based on massive amounts of data that are collected in real time. Although the number of organisations currently taking full advantage of Big Data is still small, this will change in the future. The result will be that all companies, including the SMEs, will be able to take full advantage of the benefits of Big Data regardless of their industry or location.

Moving from a culture in which gut-feeling decisions or raw estimates are acceptable to a culture that truly incorporates Big Data is challenging. So, what is required to move from a product-centric organisation to an information-centric organisation, one in which decisions are based on hard data and extensive analyses? Where do you start? How do you convince your CEO, and which questions do you need to ask? As these are such important, but difficult, questions, we have developed the Big Data Course for you. A comprehensive online course available in an exclusive member area that will help you better understand big data. Register now and start with turning your organisation into an information-centric company.

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