Top 10 Technology Trends for Advisors and Their Partners: Pt. 11, Big Data

In the previous post of our twelve-part blog series on the Top 10 Technology Trends for advisors and their partners, we discussed outsourcing to find the right or inexpensive resource or person for a specific task. The last trend we will discuss in this post is Big Data.

The Big Data trend is the explosion of the amount of data available in both structured and unstructured formats.  The key characteristic is around the challenge of sorting and analyzing the data so that meaningful insights can be gleaned.    

One of the challenges with this trend is the amount of data that a firm can now collect. Literally everything done on your website and with your digital resources—whether by clients, prospects, employees, and/or business partners—can be tracked. There is a tendency for executives and advisors to want to track everything because there is an assumption that if you have the information, you can use it to make better business decisions.  As we all know, there is a large gap between people having access to data sets and those who are able to translate that data into actionable insights that can then be used to change behavior to create a business advantage. 

Don’t get bogged down in the Big Data trend. Rather, start first by taking a critical look at what information you would like to have and how that information would help you make better decisions. How can you turn information into knowledge that, when acted upon, can help you achieve a specific business objective? By knowing what you want to achieve first and envisioning how your business would be different if you had the right information, you can then make a better decision on what data to track, how much of it to keep, and how it will be analyzed. 

According to IBM, there are three dimensions to Big Data: Volume, Velocity and Variety.

  • Volume refers to the amount of data available. There has been more digital data created in the last decade than there was in the previous million years combined!     
     
  • Velocity is how quickly data is captured and the rate at which it is captured. Services like Twitter are creating an amazing amount of data. According to CNNMoney, Twitter revealed there was more than 10 million Olympic Tweets sent during the recently concluded London games. Twitter says the Tweet volume is about 100 times what it saw during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 
     
  • Variety is the various types of data that are being captured. These can include: text, sensor data, audio, video, click streams, log files, texts etc.  Historically, information from unstructured data like video and audio was very hard to capture and analyze, but with newer data analysis tools, unstructured data can now be sorted and analyzed.  The growth of the types of information that can now be captured is also staggering. Because of this, according to Cisco, global IP traffic will increase threefold over the next five years. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29% from 2011 to 2016. 

The other key aspect of the Big Data trend? Just because you have the data doesn’t mean you have the computing software and hardware power to look at it. 

Yes, it is true that there is more computing power in your smart phone today than there was in all of the supercomputers that put the late Neal Armstrong on the moon. However, with millions and sometimes billions of data points to sift through and manage, even the most powerful desktop computer probably doesn’t have what is necessary to make sense of many reams of data. Thus, the Big Data trend is directly interrelated with the previously addressed trends of increased computer storage and cloud-based computing (all part of our Top 10 Tech trends for advisors and their partners). To take advantage of Big Data, you’re likely going to need to invest in cloud-based storage and computing services. 

As you think about these trends, keep in mind that each represents an opportunity and an equal challenge.  However, any growing pains will be worth it in the long term, as each trend represents new opportunities for your firm to increase revenue, become more efficient, and better serve clients. Keep these trends in mind as you plan for your business, and ask yourself which ones are relevant to you and how you might best implement them to achieve your personal and business objectives.

View all the articles in this series at the Top Tech Trends home page,

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