Big Data: a hot CIMA topic

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When looking at the 2010 CIMA study texts you will find very little on the subject of Big Data. But it seems to be a hot topic these days and I am sure the CIMA examiner will look to squeeze in a question on Big Data whenever they can.

The use of Big Data is becoming vital for companies to find that competitive edge or to serve their customers better by understanding their needs.

One of the classic examples of Big Data would be the supermarket industry. The amount of data they gather on their customers is staggering and the introduction of loyalty cards has made it even easier to collect data on consumer habits and trends.

Supermarkets and Big Data

For example, supermarkets realised there was a connection between the purchase of baby nappies and beer. Clearly, the parents would stop at Tesco (or any other retailer) on the way home from work to pick up some nappies and at the same time pick up some alcohol too. So to make it easier for the customer they placed the baby products closer to the alcohol selection. Win, win!

It’s the small details like this that Big Data can pick out and allows the business to cater for every aspect of the customers needs.

Big data allows you to draw on vast quantities of data to spot unusual trends and correlations that would be usually difficult to spot.

GARNERS THREE V’s

In a 2001 research report Garner identified three key challenges that organisations face – Volume, Velocity and Variety.

VOLUME – increasing volumes of data mean there is a lot more to manage and harder to extract key information from it.
VELOCITY – there is an increasing speed of data in and out, means data can quickly change. So analysis needs to be quick to spot and react to the changes.
VARIETY – the range of data types and sources of data can be varied making analysis difficult. Data in different IT systems can hard to link and analyse together.

There are 7 key stages to Big Data collection:
1. CAPTURE – what kind of data is needed and how will it be captured?
2. STORAGE – Big Data sets need physical systems that can take up vast amount of space – also need to be secure!!
3. CURATION – Once the data is captured it needs to be organised, controlled and maintained. Daily upkeep of the data.
4. ANALYSIS – The process of interpretation the data. Splitting it out into categories or make links between different types of data.
5. VISULATION – Once analysed, it needs to be put into illustration in a clear digestible format.
6. SEARCH – Once compiled, you must be able to search the data to find what you want. i.e. Google!
7. DATE SHARING AND TRANSFERS – Data must be able to be shared with those who need it.

Big Data is also massively important in marketing – by using twitter, Facebook, chat rooms and forums – companies can build up a picture of consumers and this kind of personal data is unique due to the personal nature.

It can also help identify new customers by using demographics and it also help discover new niche markets by grouping people in terms of interests and behaviour.

It’s a relatively new topic in CIMA but it’s one of the more interesting topics as you can relate to everyday life. So don’t get caught short when studying for your next case study exam – as understanding and applying Big Data could make a BIG difference in passing your next exam.

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