Big Data Myths You Probably Don’t Know About

Posted on Jul 17 2015 - 7:01am by John Terra

Big Data

In our ever-evolving high-tech world of new concepts, ideas, innovations, and buzzwords, Big Data ranks right up there as one of the more ubiquitous terms. Whether it’s the government, big industries, the world of retail, even the individual or the home-based business, it seems you can’t get away from Big Data. Big Data is, well, big.

But when a new concept comes around, it creates two distinct types of people. First you have the people who know what’s going on, the champions of the concept, the ones who understand its abilities and limitations. The second group is made up of the folks who’ve heard about it, perhaps picked up one or two anecdotes, and have drawn inaccurate conclusions based on a small sample size.

That’s why it’s time to go all Mythbusters on the concept of Big Data and take a look at eight myths that you may not even be aware of (yet), and perhaps one or two that you have. Once you are “demystified,” check out “5 Toxic Mindsets to Avoid if You Want to Leverage Big Data”, which is also related to destroying preconceived notions that may hamper your effective use of Big Data.

Big Data: A Primer
Out of consideration for anyone who haven’t heard the term yet, or who have but are unclear on the exact concept, let’s pause for catch-phrase identification.

Big Data is information that is characterized by the three V’s: Volume, Variety, and Velocity, all of them in large quantities. It is made up of massive amounts of data, drawn from many sources, and delivered at big speeds for convenient and timely access.

Okay, are we all on the same page now? Great! Onward …

Myth 1: You Need To Use It Immediately Or It Will Be Useless. It’s Big Data, not a container of cottage cheese. You aren’t obliged to use every bit of it right away. In fact, it’s smarter to start off by using it for small projects first, and working your way up. Take baby steps.

Myth 2: Big Data Gives You All The Answers. Not exactly. It’s true that Big Data will give you the answers you want, but the trick it to ask the right questions. Big Data is not a sentient thing (though check back with us in a half-century … .who knows?), and can’t anticipate your queries. Apply analytics intelligently and ask good questions.

Myth 3: All Of The Information Is Awesome And Useful. No, it’s not. In fact, sometimes you have to toss aside some of the data in order to get to the good stuff. When you get Big Data culled from a wide variety of sources, the odds are strong that you will end up getting some useless crap.

Myth 4: Big Data Requires Experts To Process It, And That’s Too Costly. Big Data may seems like a big scary concept at first glance, but all it needs is the right information management people working on it, not any kind of exotic, expensive, and hard to find data scientists.

Myth 5: Our Competitors Are Already Ahead Of Us With Big Data; We Can’t Catch Up. Big Data certainly has been touted as the latest “must have” for any business that wants to be competitive and thriving in today’s cut-throat climate, sure. However, those companies that are using Big Data (and it’s not everyone, mind you!) are still in the early stages of adopting Big Data, and a newcomer could achieve parity with minimal effort.

Besides, stop and think of just how many companies affect changes at a glacial pace. Even things that are deemed critical and important usually get tied up in committee and endless meetings, and deadlines keep getting pushed back. No, go on ahead. Implement Big Data and don’t worry about the competition.

Myth 6: We Have Lots Of Data, So We Don’t Have To Worry If Some Of It Is Of Lesser Quality. There is this prevailing mindset that numbers offset pitfalls such as quality glitches and flaws. While one or two small flaws may seem insignificant, the vastly greater amount of information given by Big Data jacks up the proportions. In other words, if among 100 people there are two axe murderers, then that’s just two people. That’s not so bad. But if two percent of a million people are axe murderers, that number comes up as 20,000. That’s a lot of axe murderers.

Myth 7: Big Data Is Only For Big Business. This one makes sense to some degree. It’s easy to think that only a big company has the resources to process and apply Big Data, but nothing could be further from the truth. Big Data is suitable for any size of business, from the big-boy multinationals to the mom and pop setup, operating out of their garage. Fortunately, there are data analytics tools like Hadoop that can turn anyone into a data analyst, with just a little training. Naturally, the big corporations have more resources to deploy and more of a need for it, but Big Data can still be a helpful partner to the small-to-medium businesses out there. It’s very democratic.

Myth 8: Big Data Replaces (Or Will Replace) Human Intuition. Oh come on, this isn’t Skynet, people! While it’s true that machine learning has made great strides, it’s a stretch to think that it can replace human thinking. Granted, the proponents of this myth make a good point when they say that humans have biases and that emotions can cloud judgement, but still, considering that Big Data’s purpose is to help businesses and other agencies to better deal with people, it’s safe to say that you need the human element present in any decisions made.

The more facts you know about Big Data, the easier it is to make the most of this advantage. In fact, in the spirit of learning more, check out “How Big Data Is Revolutionizing Retail” for some additional insights.

About the Author

John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He's still in denial about being in his late 50's, but the free donuts for AARP members help mitigate this somewhat.