Ignore Big Data at your own peril

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Organisations are being encouraged to look at big data holistically and to take into account the cost of inaction in light of new research.
According to the latest white paper from global nonprofit IT association ISACA, Generating Value From Big Data Analytics, businesses that choose to avoid using big data analytics techniques because of the possible dangers, such as security and privacy breaches, may be creating risk of another type.
“There are risks inherent in implementing big data, such as ensuring privacy laws are not breached. But the risk of inaction may be far greater, with a company being left behind as its competitors embrace the technique to leap ahead,” stated Norman Marks, member of ISACA’s Emerging Business and Technology Committee, which developed the white paper. “The insights obtained into customer needs and buying patterns, the reputation the company holds in the marketplace and the emergence of new risks can help the organisation make dramatic advances by adapting its strategies for success. In addition, big data enables significant improvements in the ability to manage risk and ensure compliance, with one example being the ability of banks to monitor transactions and identify suspected money laundering.”
Understanding the business case is just as important as understanding the technology and compliance risk, argues the paper, and that enterprises need to understand the business rationale for adoption, the anticipated return on investment and the impact if the enterprise chooses not to adopt while its competitors do.
Research shows while many professionals see the value in big data analytics they have just as many concerns. ISACA’s 2013 IT Risk/Reward Barometer found in the Australia/ New Zealand responses 44% indicated that big data has the potential to add or has already added value to their organisation, however, only 14% felt adequately prepared to manage surrounding issues.
According to the paper, challenges that can hinder the ability to realise gains from big data include the lack of specialised analytics skills in-house, enterprise silos and “Shadow IT”.

The 2013 Risk/Reward Barometer report backs up concerns over the absences of advanced skills with the lack of analytics capabilities or skills the second most frequently cited obstacle to big data, chosen by 22% of respondents. Enterprise silos are singled out as they may be less willing to share information or act on information they receive, especially where there is a history of competitiveness, antagonism or resistance to outside influence. Likewise, the trend of “Shadow IT” –technology adopted without the IT department’s approval or awareness – could result in large volumes of hidden data that get missed by big data projects planned centrally.

Robert Stroud, member of ISACA’s Professional Influence and Advisory Committee, recommended that before organisations go forward with any significant investments in big data analytics, that they take a “candid and realistic assessment of organisational culture and structure”. 

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