No matter what business you're in, chances are big data has already transformed it -- and if not, it soon will.
Big data has already changed our lives in dramatic ways, and is poised to become an even more crucial component of the business world. If you're not prepared for the ways in which big data will impact your company, it's time to start looking forward.
Businesses will have to learn to manage their data. If you have a website, a social media presence, or an ecommerce site, you're already generating quite a bit of data. Whether it's sales records, user feedback, or your customer's private data, you're in a position of protecting and using that information. Protecting and making ethical use of private data is now every business owner's responsibility. This data can be a big asset for business owners when used properly -- or it can end up a nightmare if it's mismanaged.
Privacy is paramount. A big part of managing big data is ensuring privacy -- whether it's a customer's, an employee's, or both. Data breaches and privacy scandals already make the news on a regular basis, getting some of the biggest names in business in hot water. If your company doesn't have a plan for how to deal with a data breach or privacy problem, it's time to start assembling one.
Data will disrupt. As algorithms grow more sophisticated and machine learning advances, many businesses will find themselves facing a choice: to automate or not to automate? Help desk chatbots are already replacing human assistants in many businesses, and entire industries are facing the opportunity -- or threat -- of automation. It's up to individual business owners how they will react to oncoming change. Not every business will survive the disruptions caused by big data. Will your business evolve, or simply be buried?
Big data is political. The ways big data, automation, and computing will continue to change our lives cannot be easily predicted. As technologies like automation create new ethical challenges -- such as those created by self-driving cars -- new schools of political thought will rise to meet them. This is important for business owners to understand. Many young customers, in particular, are highly motivated politically, and companies who have a weak or nonexistence stance on their use of data may find themselves on the wrong side of public disagreements.
Communications skills will be key. One of the major side effects of big data is how much more of it there is. It's often remarked upon in our society that we are inundated with information, stimuli, and more choices than ever. Communications skills will grow ever more important in the face of this barrage of data, especially in the business world.
The "Internet of Things" will provide new opportunities and challenges. As more and more devices become connected to the cloud, big data will grow exponentially. The communication between machines is poised to create a major shift in how we perceive data, the Internet, and how they interface with business. This also means security risks, unpredictable outcomes, and potential data breaches.
Data will become a service. The U.S. business data analytics market is predicted to reach more than $95 billion by 2020. As more devices like Fitbit, Apple Watch, and smart home devices become ubiquitous, the data these devices collect will become commodities in and of themselves. This customer data can be useful, and can even be sold back to information-hungry customers at a premium, but, as said above, must be protected and managed with integrity.
Storing and managing data will get more challenging. Current privacy laws often maintain that customer data should be discarded once its main purpose has been achieved. But one of the cornerstones of big data is that it be stored forever in order to remain useful. This will present not only a storage challenge moving into the future, but a logistical challenge, as businesses must find a way to organize and maintain that data.
There may be a big data talent crunch on the horizon. Although machine learning is advancing all the time, we can't trust everything to an algorithm yet. Big data requires human beings skilled in its use, analysis, and management. Many companies are likely to find themselves appointing a chief data officer, recruiting and training employees skilled in data analysis, or all of the above.
Big data is still new enough that business and the government is still figuring out how to deal with the rapid change it's brought to our world. Smart business owners are poised to reap tremendous productivity benefits if they play their cards right. But CEOs who never predicted they'd be in the "big data business" at all will find themselves facing new challenges to overcome in the business world of tomorrow.