Business Trend: Big Data

B.C. builds on its history of pioneering data-analysis software.

Big Data Business Trend | BCBusiness
Anything you sell, service or support online collects data. Data scientists analyze this information to help businesses become more effective.

B.C. builds on its history of pioneering data-analysis software.

The global technology industry loves a new trend. The latest and greatest “must-have” technologies are hyped by the trade press to sell more software and hardware, which tends to create a skeptical market. But a lot of these trends play out over time into meaningful new technologies creating jobs and opportunity. It seems as though we just figured out the last trend, “cloud computing,” and what it really means for personal and business use. Now, along comes the newest sexy technology trend: big data. Unlike the amorphous term “cloud,” this buzz phrase is much more descriptive. We have vast amounts of new data, thanks to the petabytes of digital data crumbs we create on the web and with our mobile phones. What we need is a way to process that data into meaningful, actionable information to make better decisions.

Without a doubt, the hottest job on the market today is data scientist. What does that mean? Well, if your business is harnessing data at the point-of-sale, in the supply chain, from your customer-relationship software, on an e-commerce website, via social media or simply in your advertising online, then you are sitting on mountains of useful data. Many new businesses harness data about your industry or subsector and feed it to you for a fee. The data scientist is a rare individual (the Poindexter with the green eyeshade) who uses very complex tools to model and query the data, and who understands the business you are in well enough to ask the right questions of the data. As described by IBM, a big benefactor of big-data spending, the job is part scientist and part artist.

Your business does not have to revolve around data collection to take advantage of the big-data trend toward better analytics, easier reporting and the discovery of new, useful information. Anything you sell, service or support these days collects data. Data scientists help because they can discover new trends and new information that lead to more effective marketing, better sales or better-managed costs.

Local veterans of the tech sector might say, “Big data – big deal.” They could point to B.C.’s long history of data-analytics software pioneers, from Epic Data’s automated data-collection system born in the ’70s, to ’80s business-intelligence software pioneer Crystal Decisions. I don’t want to split hairs, but big data really is a new development in this history of data gathering and analysis, born from the fact that a lot more data is now available. HootSuite, for example, has created very useful tools to track and analyze outbound social media marketing. This data stream did not exist five years ago. Mobile applications tied to social media and global-positioning capabilities are creating even larger mountains of new data to sift through.

Some of the newer local companies that are part of the big-data trend include Indicee and Terapeak (a.k.a. Advanced E-Commerce Research Systems Inc.). Indicee has big data in its DNA, as the founder and CEO is Mark Cunningham, of the Cunninghams who originally founded Crystal Decisions. Indicee views itself as a business-intelligence platform based in the cloud that lets users harness big data as well, capturing the two recently hyped trends very nicely. Long before eBay realized the value of big data being generated by its auction site, Terapeak had signed up to gather the data and provide a useful set of information on customer behaviour, competitive information and overall trends back to the merchants, allowing them to sell more efficiently. This Victoria company has been on the leading edge of big data as a business for a few years now.

With the long history in data analysis and reporting tools in B.C., we have an ample supply of talent and innovation and quite a few data scientists that can take advantage of big data. In B.C., big data really is a big deal.