Over the past decade, most organisations have become experts in creating - and hoarding - huge amounts of raw data, but less good at actually squeezing out any useful information.
But now big data holds the promise of taking the huge reservoir of unstructured data that every company holds and finding the hidden gems within it, in near to real time.
And while big data is still an emerging technology and is most often associated with the biggest organisations, in fields such as pharmaceuticals and banking, it seems there is pent-up demand from organisations of all sizes keen to get more benefit out of their vast data stores.
When asked, "Do you think the use of big-data technologies could bring significant benefits to your organisation?" TechRepublic's CIO Jury of IT leaders responded yes by 10 votes to two.
Medicine is one area where big data could create huge benefits, and Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, said: "The complexity and diversity of medical data continues to rise and this type of technology can assist in many ways to develop better clinic outcomes and business management."
Michael Woodford, executive director of IT technical services USANA Health Sciences, said: "There has always been a lot of buried value in unstructured data. IT has struggled to find the nuggets that lie hidden. As we employ some of the new data tools, management is starting to get a whole new view of what value the massive stores contain. I think we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg."
But it's not just about medicine. Michael Hanken, VP of IT at Multiquip, said: "Despite the fact that our products are not predominantly sold to end consumers where big data plays a big role, I see a huge potential for advanced analysis and a whole and new breed of power users emerging."
Indeed, Dale Huhtal, executive director, Enterprise Technology Infrastructure Services at Service Alberta, explained how for government big data might mean giving access to the private sector: "As a government entity, we may not even understand the value of this data to private sectors, so we are simply making the data available via our open-data project. There are already several wins resulting from this approach."
And Afonso Caetano, CIO at J Macêdo, said: "There are several systems based on the promise of this new technology being delivered by small start-up companies and that has brought a positive impact. Therefore I believe there are short-term benefits in adopting these systems by companies."
While John Gracyalny, VP IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, said big data "could bring benefits", he added: "Whether or not it can do that cost-effectively is going to be the $64,000 (,000,000) question."
Meanwhile Graham Yellowley, CTO of equities, risk and client service at LCH Clearnet, said: "There is a danger that instead of analysing unstructured data to provide further information that we add additional overhead across the organisation and incur information overload as a result with no tangible benefit. It will be a few years yet before this becomes a requirement, if at all."
This week's CIO Jury is:
- Shawn P Beighle, CIO at the International Republican Institute
- Afonso Caetano, CIO at J Macêdo
- John Gracyalny, VP IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union
- Michael Hanken, VP of IT for Multiquip
- Dale Huhtala, executive director, Enterprise Technology Infrastructure Services at Service Alberta
- Rob Paciorek, CIO at Access Intelligence
- Kevin Quealy, director of Information Services and Facilities, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
- Mike Roberts, IT director The London Clinic
- Joel Robertson, director of IT, King College
- James Salmon, CIO, BPP Group & University College
- Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
- Michael Woodford, executive director of IT Technical Services USANA Health Sciences, Inc
- Graham Yellowley, CTO of equities, risk and client service at LCH Clearnet
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.