Big data or big bore?

binary dataIn the past year or two, few market sectors in the world of technology have been as dramatically hyped as big data. Recently, it has become the biggest tech buzzword since cloud technology. It’s probably not surprising considering eight zettabtyes of digital data will exist by 2015, according to estimates from IDC. To put that into perspective, one zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes or one billion terrabytes. But, like any over-hyped topic, cracks begin to show and people begin to question the assertions made.

Independently commissioned research, surveying major UK enterprises with more than one thousand employees, by Babel PR, has revealed a considerable degree of big data scepticism. When asked to rate their scepticism of the claims made by big data companies on a scale of one (not at all sceptical) to five (extremely sceptical), most respondents (57%) rated themselves four or five.

Further research reveals that although 50% of respondents reported their company had deployed a big data solution in the past two years, only 31% expect to make a deployment in the next two years. Unsurprisingly, companies want to hear specific insight from vendors and it is operational insight, requested by 62% of respondents, rather than marketing insight or fraud detection (each 31%) that is most in demand. Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) wanted to hear less talk about big data itself and 4% are so turned off by the subject that no amount of insight would make them receptive to approaches from big data vendors.

The research suggests the big data message is wearing thin and the advice we are giving all big data vendors is to focus on the specific benefits their solutions bring to the target market and to illustrate those benefits with tangible evidence. It has to answer the question: How are real companies using Big Data to solve real problems? Essentially, get the message right, and you will continue to see growth – get it wrong and vendors will be selling to an increasingly dubious audience. From a communications perspective there can be real benefits in ‘riding the hype wave’ but you don’t want to get dumped when it breaks.

For the time being though, there’s no denying that big data will continue to be a big business opportunity. IDC estimates that companies will spend $120bn on data analytics software between now and 2015. So, despite the apparent audience fatigue, we expect continuing strong growth in the sector for those companies that succeed in getting the right message across.

Ultimately, to avoid scepticism and to get the message right, big data vendors should probably take note of this rather amusing saying doing the rounds on social media…

“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…”

Yes, let everyone talk about it, but know how to do it, know what everyone else is really doing, and there won’t be any need to make false claims.

This research was conducted on behalf of Babel PR during September 2013 by technology market research firm, Vanson Bourne. A full copy of the research, including results segmented by market sector, is available online.  

Ian Hood is Managing Director of Babel PR.