When does it make sense to start up a Big Data program? If your email marketing system isn't talking to your sales force automation system, and neither is synched up with your online purchase system, are you really ready to tackle a Big Data project?
The answer may surprise you as we examine Big Data and its impact on the next generation digital experience in this fourth installment of our ongoing series "Are You Ready for Big Data?"
Here's a break for companies hoping to put a Big Data project on the fast track: You don't have to generate all the Big Data you use. Often you can gain insights by purchasing another dataset and adding it to what you've been able to generate yourself.
For example, you can add weather data to your sales data to see if frigid temperatures are having a positive or negative impact on how your merchandise moves.
And it's a buyer's market for data customers, with many marketplaces offering free datasets to compare with your own data streams.
Some of the most popular data marketplaces are DataMarket, Factual, Microsoft's Windows Azure Data Marketplace, IBM's ManyEyes, Google's Public Data Explorer, Amazon's Public Data Sets on AWS, and Infochimps.
At DataMarket, for example, you can search for datasets, gather the data, upload your own data, and compare. You can also output the results using DataMarket's chart and visualization templates.
Amazon offers Public Data Sets on AWS, which provides a centralized repository of free public data sets that can be integrated into AWS cloud-based applications. Google has Public Data Explorer, IBM's ManyEyes is geared towards visualization.
Factual concentrates on places and products. You can mash-up your information with their data on local businesses, points of interest, restaurants, hotels, and consumer packaged goods.
Infochimps has many free datasets, including raw text of 4,771 erotica stories, 100,000+ official crossword words, and the birth and death rates of US teenagers, culled from the US Census.
Microsoft Windows Azure Data Marketplace, as the name implies, integrates data with its applications. Its data assets include economic indicators, telephone numbers, weather data, as well as regional datasets like crime statistics for England and Wales.
There are advantages to buying data from these marketplaces. For one thing, it's clean, which may be a welcome change from the messy data you've been trying to scrub. Many of the services also enable you to do your data crunching on their servers, freeing you from time-consuming and often complicated downloads. If you are already using a cloud-based data analytics solution from one of the providers, the process is even easier.
And you may be surprised by the variety of data that's available.
"The wide availability of data continues to surprise me every day," said Shawndra Hill, who works with and teaches about Big Data in the Operations and Information Management Department at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
"My colleagues and I have used publicly available data to predict drought in Ethiopia, the success of TV shows, what people will follow on Twitter, the success of advertising, and stock market trends," Hill said. "We have also worked on linking drugs to their side effects. In the past, these projects wouldn’t be possible without partnerships with firms that allowed the use of their proprietary data."
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in the ongoing series “Are You Ready for Big Data?” by DC Denison. Download the complete "Are You Ready for Big Data" ebook to learn more about Big Data, its applications in creating the next generatlon digital experience, and what it takes to get into the game.