Big Data
By Mark Dexter
17th December 2012

The renowned Harvard Business Review recently described the role of data scientist as ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century’.

And while that seems a little far-fetched it’s fair to say that roles in Big Data attract a high average salary, or contractor rate, and there is a notable shortage of talent in the sector. Data scientists are hugely in demand and in a recession that’s sexy in itself!

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Big Data is the analysis, understanding and use of unstructured data. This can include anything from tags in online photographs to tweets, from employee absenteeism patterns, to survey response feedback and website requests. I think that Big Data is a slight misnomer, and in reality All Data is a better term. Essentially it’s any data that is difficult to structure using usual methods.

A good example is some work done by Porsche, who saw a drop in sales when they introduced an update of an existing model. An analysis of Porsche hashtags on Twitter revealed that it was felt that the new style spoiler was poorly designed. Porsche reacted to this, and sales levels grew.

While Big Data has already been around for a while it’s still very much at the ‘prospecting’ stage, with companies still working out the scope of what’s possible by using it.

I would say to any information management professional that your skills are going to become extremely useful in this world. While it’s largely up to the data scientists to come up with ways to structure the data, the ‘traditional’ skills transfer well.

There has always been, and always will be a need for analysts to understand models, for data quality, for data governance. These bedrocks of data, these basic tenets, remain, you may just need to adjust your ways of thinking to a degree, or even to revisit those course notes from college days. You might be surprised how many of the basic principles remain the same.

I have been asked recently if it’s possible to make the move from other information management roles over to data science. My answer is yes, but it might be difficult, particularly if your current role is more business facing and less technical.  In this case the only likely way you might get there is by transferring and training internally.

From a recruitment perspective, Big Data-related enquiries continue to pour into KDR and Information Management professionals should at the very least familiarise themselves with the term, its meaning and its application to the real world. Big Data is more than a fad, more than a buzzword and is very much here to stay.

Do you think big data is just a buzzword or is there more to it?

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