Phil Simon: Big Data and Teenage Sex

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“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

–Dan Ariely

In a word, brilliant. You’ll get no argument from me.

I see myriad surveys, polls, and reports that “most” organizations are embracing Big Data. For instance, as Matt Asay onReadWriteWeb writes:

According to a recent Gartner report, 64% of enterprises surveyed indicate that they’re deploying or planning Big Data projects (emphasis mine). Yet even more acknowledge that they still don’t know what to do with Big Data. Have the inmates officially taken over the Big Data asylum?

That’s a big jump (64% in 2013 compared to 58% in 2012), and it reflects a growing confidence that Big Data can help to enhance the customer experience (54% cited this as their driving motivation), improve process efficiency (42%) and launch new products or business models (39%).

So, slowly but surely, Big Data is making inroads in the enterprise, right?

Color me a skeptic, but I just don’t buy these statistics. For every Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Twitter, there are thousands of mid-sized and large enterprises doing nothing. Probably more.

Is this understandable? Of course. Most organizations do a poor job managing Small Data (read: the transactional, structured, relational data that undergirds their operations.) Tony Fisher covers this in his book The Data Asset (affiliate link).

Simon Says

Maybe in a few years, Ariely’s quote won’t hold water. At this point, though, it’s spot-on.


What say you?

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