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How can businesses best navigate their way through the world of big data?

Brian Gentile, Senior Vice President and General Manager, TIBCO Analytics
Brian Gentile, Senior Vice President and General Manager, TIBCO Analytics
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Analytics is changing the way businesses operate and it has never been more important to have a firm understanding and analysis of data. We talked to Brian Gentile, Senior Vice President and General Manager at TIBCO Analytics, on the topic of why big data is continuing to hold big importance in 2015.

TechRadar Pro: So just how important is big data?

Brian Gentile: Regardless of size, an enterprise lives or dies based on its ability to make decisions in an accurate, timely and effective manner. But as the quantity and comprehensiveness of available data continues to expand, so too does the required scope of analytic decision making.

Analytics is changing the way businesses operate and it has never been more important to have a firm understanding and analysis of data. That is, for an organisation to succeed, a much larger percentage of its workforce must become capably analytic, at minimum during the point in time when a decision must be made or an action must be taken.

This is precisely why business intelligence (BI) has quickly evolved from a "nice to have" aspect to a fundamental business lifeline. In fact, we are today entering a new generation of embedded business intelligence which looks to make big data small, and is fundamentally different to the previous generations. So big data really holds big importance.

TRP: How are companies adopting big data today?

BG: There are three phases to the adoption of big data. Phase one is when organisations begin collecting these new, multi-structured data sources without even having a precise plan for their use (which is advisable today, given the low costs of doing so). By collecting this data, the organisation is simply recognising it will very likely find future value that is not easily known today.

Phase two is when organisations gain insight through internally-generated big data sources, such as clickstreams, customer service records, sensor-generated data, or social media sentiment information. These internal data sets are usually the first to yield new correlative value that can determine business critical decisions.

Lastly, phase three is when organisations include external big data sources and compares them with in-house data. The concept of putting these new, multi-structured big data types to work is just beginning and the quicker businesses adopt it, whether externally, internally or both, the more they will be able to reap the benefits, deliver true business value and stay ahead of the competition.

TRP: What can companies do today that they couldn't do previously when it comes to analysing their data?

BG: Businesses today have access to a host of new technologies that never previously existed. Traditionally BI has only been available in a standalone manner, for example. This doesn't allow for data to be analysed and presented in real-time to users inside the applications they actually use every day, and therefore becomes less valuable to them.

Modern day business reporting and analysis should be easily embedded into existing company applications or accessed via the cloud, all to ensure that those who need it, have access to the latest information and insight required to make accurate and more informed business decisions.

TRP: What benefits does this bring to those companies?

BG: The evidence is mounting that embedding analytics inside the applications business people use every day can lead to quantifiable benefits. A new generation of embedded BI platforms is making it easier and more cost-effective for organisations to gain insight from their data, and I hope that BI will finally become pervasive as an information service that informs day-to-day operations.

Using a business intelligence solution, organisations can address central issues such as identifying historical trends and using these for planning, gaining quick visibility into emerging issues as they arise for timely remediation/amplification, and exploring data interactively to identify patterns, investigate causes, and experiment with actions for improvement.

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.