You’ve surely heard about big data, but do you really know what it’s all about? The term has been overhyped to the point of absurdity. Yet, despite all the discussions, it still remains a vague concept for many business people. Big data is powerful, though. It can help you maximize the potential of your business.

What is Big Data?

What is big data? Big data refers to the process of analyzing diverse data sets using advanced data analytics tools, perhaps including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The big data process looks at data and makes inferences. It spots patterns and makes predictions.

One big misconception is that big data has to be “big” to qualify in the category. The “big” in big data is as much about the depth and breadth of data as it about gigabytes. Yes, big data projects often involve mind-numbing volumes of information, but big data may also involve a relatively small amount of highly diverse data. Big data is all about amassing multiple types of data from different sources and finding hidden correlations and connections that lead to useful business insights.

Big data assumes flexible, broad integration of data. Data feeding into a big data solution might include traditional “structured” database (row and column) inputs, “unstructured data” like PDFs and word documents, social media posts, images, network traffic logs, public data streams like stock market index performance and on and on. The data can be historical or current. It can be public, private or both.

How Big Data Works in Your Business

Big data is two steps up from the typical Business Intelligence (BI) processes. Though this hierarchy is not official, you can think of business data analysis as existing on three separate tiers of sophistication. The first tier is BI, which helps you manage your business with dashboards about performance and analysis of operating data. The next tier up is “Advanced Data Analytics,” which applies AI and ML to your business data. You get new insights into your business from advanced analytics.

Big data is the third level. It performs advanced data analytics on any data that might be relevant to your business. By pulling a huge variety, and a theoretically unlimited amount into the analytical process, big data can help you maximize your business potential in a number of ways, including:

  • Getting to know your customers better – Your customers provide you with a lot of data about themselves. With big data, you can analyze what they really need and whether they’re getting it from your business. For example, you can correlate sentiment analysis gained from social media posts that mention your company name with revenue and transaction volumes.
  • Seeing unseen opportunities – Getting a deeper, more richly textured understanding of your sales process can yield new opportunities. Opportunities to grow may have been hiding in plain sight before big data revealed them to you.
  • Seeing unseen problems – Big data can also expose problems in your business that you couldn’t see before. Security vulnerabilities, fraud, defective compliance controls, disloyal employees—all of these can be discovered with enough data analysis. Once found, problems can be solved.
  • Predicting the future – Big data can offer predictive insights. For instance, with “Predictive Maintenance,” big data can give accurate predictions of when a machine will break down and suggest maintenance before that occurs.
  • Understanding the past – By examining historical data, big data can offer insights into what happened in your business in the past. You might learn some new truths about how your business really operates.
  • Understanding your business in a broader context – With its ability to pull data in from multiple sources, big data can show you how your business works in the bigger picture. For instance, you might not think the stock market affects your revenue, growth, but perhaps it does. Big data can discover such patterns that help you become smarter about your business.

Big data takes some effort and investment to get working. We can help. We work with companies on big data implementation. To learn how we can help your business get the most out of its data, visit