Big Data – Construct or Reality?

Before we get started – a definition of “construct” is needed. Taking a page from my years in quantitative research, I submit this definition (based on this definition):

A construct is a mental abstraction used to express an idea, object or any other ‘item’ (could be people, organizations, etc.). It’s a way of bringing theory into the ‘real’ world and attempting to explain it using other real-world examples.

With that out of the way…back to the question at hand: Is big data a construct or reality?

By asking that question, I’m really asking this: Is big data really something ‘new’ and ‘big’ that needs to be ‘done’ by organizations today in order to stay competitive…or is big data just a construct used to describe how organizations and people have always used and analyzed data for decision making?

If I were to answer the question, I’d say “both”.

Big Data is a reality. The need for ‘doing’ big data exists today. While the buzz that is surrounding big data could be more hype than not, the need to use data for decision making is very real. To take it a step further, to use big data tools and technologies requires a pretty good level of knowledge and skill-set.

Additionally, big data is a construct. It’s used as a way to abstract the science, tools, technologies and skill-sets away from the discussion. Big Data as construct allows practitioners, academics and technologists to sit down at the same table and discuss the subject in a broad sense.

Big Data as construct also allows IT and the business to sit down and speak a generalized language. This is key as, in the past, IT and the business hasn’t always been able to understand each other that well.

Whether you or your organization call it big data or analytics or business intelligence, you are generally using data to drive decision making. Big Data is both a reality and a construct. And it’s here to stay.

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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