Big data: the common misconceptions

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Published:  February 2, 2016
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Information is power, but what is even more powerful is knowing how to use that information.

Big data is a term that we’ve been hearing a lot about. But what is it? Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business. Big data can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves for organisations.

However, not everyone knows how to use big data and there are several misconceptions about its usage.


Nigel Mendonca, country manager for Tableau ANZ, helps us debunk three common myths surrounding big data and how big data can actually help the individual too.

1. Numbers may quantify, but not necessarily improve, businesses

Experts have pointed out time and time again that it’s not the amount of data or the statistics from the data collected that’s important. It’s what organisations do with the data that matters.

“For example, most marketing and advertising agencies rely heavily upon measurement capabilities to assess how their audience perceives their clients’ creative campaigns, the overall success of these and, most importantly, quickly identify and correct any issues,” says Mendonca.

With intuitive visual data analysis, companies are able to act quickly to identify campaigns that are underperforming and eventually save money and achieve better results.

“And when we refer to developing and retaining a competitive edge, research shows that organisations that practise self-service, data-driven cultures outperform those that don’t by two to one. A McKinsey study also showed that organisations that made data-driven decisions over mere guesswork saw more than seven percent more in business returns. These studies tell us that being fluent with data makes perfect business sense,” adds Mendonca.

2. Big data is only relevant for certain industries and not the individual

According to Mendonca, the common misconception lies in the thinking that big data only applies to certain industries with high volumes of information and analytics, including sales and marketing. “However, big data can be applied to myriad industries, including farming, education and government sectors, FMCG, retail, start-ups and SMEs,” he says.

“The great thing about big data is that it’s not exclusive to any particular user. Individuals can benefit from the same insights and findings as organisations.”

Big_data3. Big data is a lot of work and is expensive

One of the common challenges when approaching big data analytics is the perception of dealing with a large amount of information and not being able to determine its meaning.

The traditional way of dealing with data was a notoriously fragmented and slow process, requiring many minds and a great deal of patience and concentration. “It used to require entire IT departments to decipher the findings and turn them into digestible learnings, whereas these days users are more interested in the meaning behind the data and what that means for them. What we aim to do at Tableau is to empower anyone to work with data from anywhere, and make that data work for them,” says Mendonca.

Self-service analytics is all about putting the control back into the user’s hands. Today, there are a number of applications – from analytics in the cloud to free consumer apps – that give business owners and information workers the ability to source their own customer insights. “Now, these same business owners have the opportunity to determine what they want to know. They can choose to take home what they feel is relevant for their area of work or business,” adds Mendonca.


This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
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