I have been a part of the IT community for more than four decades, and the more I observe the massive shifts in tectonic plates that occur sometimes, the clearer I realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In fact, it’s not a stretch to look at what is happening in the field of Big Data in much the same way as Sir Isaac Newton viewed energy. For those who may have forgotten, Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics states that “energy cannot be created, nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to another.”
Data, likewise, isn’t created from nothing but rather, simply is transformed following our interaction with a product or service. We have an application that tells us the price of a toy – but we had data on the components that make up the toy and before that, data on the raw material and before that, geological survey information. Just as importantly, with our renewed focus on recycling, the toy will likely reappear after its useful life as something else, and when it does, the accompanying data will be transformed once again. And so forth and so on – possibly not with the precision Newton proposed, but good enough to more or less confirm the core message that the transformation of data continues ad infinitum.
This transformation of data, cyclical in terms of how it’s used and reused through numerous cycles, was central to a recent discussion I had with WebAction Cofounder, Sami Akbay. “Business has known for some time that data is always worth mining – there’s nothing better than having concrete information about customers’ behavior and preferences before introducing new products or services,” Akbay began. “The reason Big Data frameworks are gaining as much attention as they do today is that we finally have the tools to store every piece of data we come across and with the analytics we can run, reveal genuine business gems. However, if we cannot do these analytics in real-time and have a way to introduce the results into the transactional systems, many business opportunities may be lost.”
Closing the Loop on Insights
Analyzing data and generating business insight, or intelligence, is just reshaping data in order to reuse it. Once presented to business, if proven to be of value, this data will be reused and likely reappear in a transformed fashion. As Akbay observed, “WebAction has recognized the problem of closing the loop when it comes to data – acquire, process, and then feeding the results back into the processing as new insights – and sees the value of feedback as an important consideration for all businesses anxious to capitalize on developing trends as they happen.” Big Data may be new, but data has always been with us and what WebAction has realized is that there is value in closing the loop and in making sure business takes nothing for granted as they themselves likely transform to serve their customers better.