Data and how it is growing

Rise of Data

Widely discussed and referred to as Big Data the recent explosion in the amount of information available is causing many businesses problems, yet for some it’s providing opportunity.

I recently presented to an audience of IT decision makers at Manchester City Football Club on the subject of Data; Big Data, Bad Data, Data Security and Data Analytics. A wide topic to cover and one that is close to the hearts of many businesses it was clear that everyone in the audience recognised that data volumes are on the increase. Within the group there seemed to be several different schools of thought on how to deal with the problem; some were considering archiving solutions, some were looking into cloud based back-up solutions and some were simply adding new storage hardware as and when it was needed.

Although storage and back-up requirements have always been high on the IT Departments radar and data volumes have always been on the increase something is different now. The exponential growth of worldwide data volumes over the last five years has come as a shock to many businesses. No-one is quite certain exactly how much but it’s generally accepted that we create the same amount of data every 2 days as we did between the dawn of time and 2003. That relates to around 90% of the world’s data being created in the last two years, startling facts for companies who invest increasing amounts of capital and operational costs to store and recover business critical data.

Gartner predicts that data will grow 800% over the next five years, as Einstein once said, “You can’t expect different results doing the same thing”
The increase in the amount of data interests me, not just because I’m involved with a company that provides data management solutions but because I can see the hidden value that this new data offers to those prepared to look for it. But first we need to understand where this explosion of data is coming from and more to the point, where’s it’s going to take us.

It is estimated that 80% of the world’s data is unstructured; unstructured data being information that does not fit within a pre-defined format or model such a free written text, blogs, photos etc. One explanation for the increasing amount of unstructured data is the marked increase in Social Media and Blogging activity over the last five years.

Rise of the Blogger

Blogging comes in many different guises, Video Blogging, Photo Blogging, Web Blogging and of course Micro Blogging (Twitter, Facebook). Recent figures indicate that around 30% of people now blog in some form or another increasing blog posts to around 34million, a figure that is expected to double every six months.
Facebook alone has 30 billion pieces of content added every month and YouTube see over 48 Hours of footage uploaded every minute. These Social Networking sites make it as easy as possible for us to share our favourite video, photo or poem across multiple platforms within our own private networks or, for the world to see. This process of sharing information across our networks creates multiple copies thus further adding to the pool of worldwide information.
It’s estimated that around 70% of the world’s data is a copy of a copy of a copy and whilst Social Media can’t be held entirely responsible for the dramatic rise in data volumes it is most definitely a major influencer. Some sceptics suggest that the Social Media Tsunami is receding and although it’s been reported that Facebook have lost 8 Million users this last couple of months it has also been reported that Facebook is likely to reach 1 Billion users by Autumn 2012.
That’s a 1/6th of the population of the Globe sharing, liking, posting and creating data – just on Facebook.
It’s not just Facebook that is experiencing an increase in attention. Twitter adds 6 new accounts every second and Stumbleupon has doubled its members in just one year to over 20 million. The blogging site Tumblr experienced a 172% increase in traffic from October 2010 to October 2011 and new sites like Pin Interest are enjoying mass sign-ups resulting in a 512% increase in use over 6 months in 2011. In addition, Google+ signed a staggering 625,000 new accounts every day during the Christmas period of 2011 catapulting them to 90Million users within a year of launch.
It’s hardly surprising that “big data” and “social media” now appear at the top of corporate meeting agendas around the globe. They are inherently twisted together in the fabric of our on-line lives and will continue to mature together as close allies, for it’s this data, the data that we post that is valuable.

Wikipedia and Google share a similar outlook on this data: To empower and engage people to document the sum of all human knowledge, and to make it available to all humanity, in perpetuity.
At a recent C24Ltd presentation almost everyone who attended rather uncomfortably agreed that if they lost their data that they would more than likely be out of business within a couple of years. Businesses do recognised the VALUE of data, even if it is on a pure survival level but is that enough in today’s competitive mobile driven marketplace? Perhaps then it’ll come as a surprise to learn that 43% of businesses do nothing more than this, holding the value of their hard earned business data as nothing more than a get out of jail free card in the event of system failures.

In contrast, those companies who value and understand their data have found themselves to be much better off than they were before and are 4.5 times more likely to outperform companies that don’t. It’s this competitive advantage that today’s data offers businesses that are prepared to embrace it. It provides them with an insight that empowers them to make more accurate and informed decisions.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Take Amy, she’s 19 years old has a good circle of friends and carries her smart phone with her everywhere she goes. She checks into shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas and bars tagging friends she’s with. She’ll like places she has a good time in and leave comments on the Facebook walls of restaurants. She logs her travel experiences on Trip Advisor and blogs about her academic experiences on Tumblr, tweeting out her thoughts as she meanders through her day.
Amy will hold her friends’ recommendations and views in high regard, as we all do with valued friends so she’ll take notice when one of them publically recommends a product or service through a social plugin immediately increasing the possibility of Amy visiting the shop or “checking out” that service. She may even follow the smart links, “like” the page and follow the twitter account ensuring that she receives updates and offers direct to her device. And so the circle of influence continues.

Reward for influence.

Some retail brands will use this type of recommendation and offer reward; perhaps a discount on the next visit, some points on a card or an increase in online social kudos in a similar way to Trip Advisor.

Recently I used a well know web comparison site for a car insurance renewal. I was so pleased with the service I sent a tweet to the world hashtagging (#) the service name. 30 minutes later I had a reply direct from the provider expressing their delight and offering me a small reward. The same happened with a leading fast food restaurant, except this time I was voicing my displeasure at the quality of the food I’d been served.
There’s been many a success story about building brand loyalty from using a clearer understanding of your customer’s habits; Tesco’s Dunnhumby perhaps being the most publicised in recent years.
Successfully exploiting the massive amount of data that surrounds us is the key to driving business forward. Understanding what drives your customers (or your competitors customers) to make a purchase, book a table or change their brand will become all the more relevant (and available) as we move to mobile devices. Rewarding customers for influencing their friends will become all the more important as the mobile powered, geo-tagged shopper has the power to influence a highly engaged audience right in their hand.

Thanks to Lee Duffield


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