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Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data Hardcover – March 18, 2013
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From the Inside Flap
Residents in Boston, Massachusetts are automatically reporting potholes and road hazards via their smartphones. Progressive Insurance tracks real-time customer driving patterns and uses that information to offer rates truly commensurate with individual safety. Google accurately predicts local flu outbreaks based upon thousands of user search queries. Amazon provides remarkably insightful, relevant, and timely product recommendations to its hundreds of millions of customers. Quantcast lets companies target precise audiences and key demographics throughout the Web. NASA runs contests via gamification site TopCoder, awarding prizes to those with the most innovative and cost-effective solutions to its problems. Explorys offers penetrating and previously unknown insights into healthcare behavior.
How do these organizations and municipalities do it? Technology is certainly a big part, but in each case the answer lies deeper than that. Individuals at these organizations have realized that they don't have to be Nate Silver to reap massive benefits from today's new and emerging types of data. And each of these organizations has embraced Big Data, allowing them to make astute and otherwise impossible observations, actions, and predictions.
It's time to start thinking big.
In Too Big to Ignore, recognized technology expert and award-winning author Phil Simon explores an unassailably important trend: Big Data, the massive amounts, new types, and multifaceted sources of information streaming at us faster than ever. Never before have we seen data with the volume, velocity, and variety of today. Big Data is no temporary blip of fad. In fact, it is only going to intensify in the coming years, and its ramifications for the future of business are impossible to overstate.
Too Big to Ignore explains why Big Data is a big deal. Simon provides commonsense, jargon-free advice for people and organizations looking to understand and leverage Big Data. Rife with case studies, examples, analysis, and quotes from real-world Big Data practitioners, the book is required reading for chief executives, company owners, industry leaders, and business professionals.
From the Back Cover
"In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson, Simon takes a complex topic and makes you think about it differently through real-world storytelling that resonates."
-Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Companies are Helping not Selling
"In Too Big to Ignore, Phil Simon takes the mystique out of Big Data. He weaves the human, technical, and organizational requirements for success into an accessible book for all of us."
-Terri Griffith, professor and author of The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive
"Simon's book provides a very valuable primer to the increasingly important world of Big Data - what it is, what it isn't, and how it is being used and potentially abused. Anyone wishing to get up to speed quickly on the big ideas and big players behind Big Data will benefit greatly from reading this practical, down-to-earth book."
-Robert Charette, President, ITABHI Corporation
"As more and more entrepreneurs, investors, and customers talk about Big Data, it gets harder and harder to understand what the phrase actually means. Phil Simon does a great job defining it and making a clear business case for the ideas that are typically incorporated into the phrase Big Data. Ignore this book at your own peril."
-Brad Feld, Foundry Group, Managing Director and author, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City
"Phil Simon gets that business executives are no longer content with roll-up reports and summarized spreadsheets--they want detailed, consumable information in order to make fact-based decisions about their companies and customers. Too Big to Ignore provides a comprehensive overview of the Big Data trend, detailing the new components of Big Data. Ignore them at your peril!"
-Jill Dyché, Vice President of SAS Best Practices, author of The CRM Handbook
"Too Big to Ignore clearly demonstrates the increasing role and value of Big Data. His illustrative case studies and engaging style will dispel any doubts executives may have about how Big Data is driving success in today's economy."
-Adrian C. Ott, award-winning author, The 24-Hour Customer
"Business leaders are drowning in data, and the deluge has only just begun. In Too Big to Ignore, Simon delves into the world of Big Data, and makes the business case for capturing, structuring, analyzing and visualizing the immense amount of information accessible to businesses. This book gives your organization the edge it needs to turn data into intelligence, and intelligence into action."
-Paul Roetzer, Founder & CEO, PR 20/20; Author, The Marketing Agency Blueprint
"Today Big data affects everybody and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In Too Big to Ignore, Phil Simon makes the topic accessible and relatable. This important book shows people how to put Big Data to work for their organizations."
-William McKnight, President, McKnight Consulting Group
"Simon has an uncanny ability to connect business cases with complex technical principles, and most important, clearly explain how everything coalesces. Too Big to Ignore demystifies Big Data, and Simon helps the rest of us understand how this evolving, pervasive subject affects businesses today, and how we can use it to our advantage or completely miss the boat."
-Dalton Cervo, co-author of Master Data Management in Practice
"From Twitter feeds to photo streams to RFID pings, the Big Data universe is rapidly expanding, providing unprecedented opportunities to understand the present and peer into the future. Tapping its potential while avoiding its pitfalls doesn't take magic; it takes a map. In Too Big to Ignore, Phil Simon offers businesses a comprehensive, clear-eyed, and enjoyable guide to the next data frontier."
-Chris Berdik, author of Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations
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This book explains why Big Data is a big deal.
Car insurance rates, for almost all the industries 80 year history, have had remarkably little to do with whether one is a competent and careful driver. All young drivers pay higher premiums even if young Joey rarely drives above the speed limit, always obeys traffic signals, and never had so much as an accident on his bicycle.
There is a reason most car insurance companies based their rates on relatively simple variables. Three of the biggest American companies started up on the 1930s. Eighty years ago, those primitive models represented the best that car insurance companies could do. Rates are no longer based on a small, primitive set of independent variables. Insurance companies are implementing more contemporary, accurate, dynamic, and data-driven pricing models. This is a direct result of advances in GPS, mapping, mobile technologies, and telemetry. The result is revolutionizing car insurance.
It is now possible to track which drivers routinely exceed the speed limit and ride through red lights. We can ascertain which drivers routinely drive dangerously slowly. Who is driving less cautiously despite never being fined? Who obeyed traffic signals in the past, but does not anymore? Which drivers text while driving, a practice considerably more dangerous than driving drunk. Does a man with two cars (a sports car and a station wagon) drive each differently?
For data-challenged companies, accurately answering pertinent questions like these is extremely difficult.
If you are puzzled as to how Big Data differs from the ubiquitous ERP and CRM programmes already found in most companies, the answer lies in the types of data involved. ERP and CRM systems handle structured data, but it is unstructured data that represents most of what we call ‘Big Data.’ For any organization, structured data now only tells part of the story. Unstructured information accounts for more than 80% of all data in organizations. By some estimates, it is growing ten to fifty times faster than its structured counterpart is.
Unstructured data has always existed, but we never thought of it as “data.” Much of this unstructured data is digitized and available nearly instantly. Most data is born digital.
Author Phil Simon is a fan of the Canadian band, Rush. He attends a concert and takes photos of the band in action. After the concert, he add his pictures, collection of digital data, to an online album of Rush photos and titles it “Rush 2012” and puts it on the web to be viewed by other Rush fans.
If someone wanted to see only recent pictures of the band’s drummer Neil Peart, and not the concert, he would have to trawl through the collection. To avoid this, Simon tags the photos with various descriptors to make searching easier. He uses a dedicated picture site that does some of the tagging automatically. With a face-recognition facility the album software can identify each member of the band. The single picture yields multiple pieces of data.
A fan searching for the drummer can search across the pictures of thousands of Rush fans.
Now consider Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. In September 2011, it was logging one million customer transactions per hour and fed information into databases estimated at 2.5 petabytes in size. Add to this books, newspapers, and magazines —all examples of unstructured data. Then throw in the 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
All this Big Data can be enormously valuable in answering mission critical question. What products would our customers consider buying? When is the best time of the year to launch a new product? What are people saying about our latest commercial or brand? How do we sell more products?
Centuries-old winemakers like Gallo have been able to launching new varietals based on advanced analytics and data culled from social networks. HR departments are turning to Big Data to solve a long-vexing problem: how to hire better employees and retain them.
Google has been able to predict local flu outbreaks with accurately based on thousands of user search queries.
There is no mass market anymore. There is an overwhelming choice in everything from TV stations, to music, to clothing. Using Big Data companies are able to target precise audiences and tight, key demographics. The consulting firm McKinsey has called Big Data “the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.”
The successful use of Big Data is impacting on medical research and drug discovery. UPS regularly mines truck delivery data to optimize new routing methods and reduce expenses. Even pizza shops in America are using Big Data.
Now, businesses of any size can, and must, start exploiting Big Data. As Edwards Deming once said, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
Readability Light ---+- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High --+-- Low
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
Most books to date fall into one of two categories; Very high level (Executive focused). The ten thousand foot view. Which personally feels like a book about nothing. And category two; In the weeds (Tech notes trolled from the internet) or whitepaper in a bound version.
In "Too Big to Ignore" Phil has successfully managed to to bridge the gap between and bring to the table a discussion that is not only easy to understand for your CEO, but contains the relevant technical information and validation without a trip back into the weeds.
TBTI introduces Phil's unique viewpoint that remains vendor and software agnostic and delves into the pros and cons relevant to any enterprise's Big Data initiative including the potential for misuse.
My only criticism would be that Wiley and/or Amazon had not released an Audio book version.
too BIG to IGNORE cuts through the hype. I particularly like four things: First, the discussion on the confluence of factors that drive interest in big data. Those who think that big data will fall by the way-side are advised the give Chapter 1 a hard look--the underlying factors are only accelerating. "Big data" may not have made it to your discipline, but something like it can't be far off.
Second, the discussion of the limitations. In many cases there are important secrets buried in the data. But uncovering them, and putting them to work, is no easy task.
Third, the discussion of what it will take to succeed. A lot more than a big database, cloud technology, and a data scientist.
Fourth, the overall synthesis. The title page promises "the business case for big data." It delivers. Both the promise and the difficulties.
One final bit of advice to the reader. tBtI is an fast and fun read. So skim it for an overview. tBtI also has some depth. So after the skim, re-read it, more carefully and thoughtfully.
This topic is extremely relevant regardless if you are a cloud-based technology start-up business or a century old manufacturing company. If you have not yet grasped these concepts or are still in a "wait-and-see" mode, be very aware that your competitors are likely hard at work exploring ways to profit from their vast enterprise data assets. I encourage business, public sector, and educational professionals to read "too BIG to IGNORE" to gain important insights into how powerful this resource can be for your institution and how it will likely impact your respective industry.
Simon's latest book is an excellent complement to his "The Age of the Platform" to understand critical trends that are impacting businesses in all sectors.