What are Big Data and its impact on knowledge management? This question has been on the lips of CIOs since the dawn of enterprise computing and has yet to receive an answer. Few however, in the last decade or so have given any major credence to the notion that the Cloud can replace the traditional data center models and deliver on the promise to deliver “instantly available” data as and when needed.
In a recent article in Fortune, Mark Shuttleworth, an entrepreneur turned advisor and CFO, posits three challenges facing data mining and knowledge management:
* Information is becoming more private. As opposed to the early days when the Big Data phenomenon provided opportunities for collaboration and analysis of large amounts of data, today’s technologies to prevent this. Companies need to realize that their data resides on multiple devices running Windows, Linux, Apache, MySQL and other server technologies. As such, managing and protecting this information requires technical talent, not to mention an understanding of security issues.
* Big data does not translate into better business results. The age of the Big Data phenomenon is largely defined by the volume of data produced by companies each day. While it may be true that businesses can process large quantities of data using various systems, without an organizational structure in place, this data will waste away without yielding benefits. Therefore, while massive amounts of data can be leveraged for a quick response to an emerging problem, companies also need a formalized process for managing data and utilizing it to best effect.
* Knowledge is becoming a rare commodity. While it was easy to assume that the rich and powerful knew more than the poor and powerless, this is no longer so. Today, there are literally tons of articles, books, ebooks and other information that anyone can access on virtually any topic. This information explosion has resulted in the demarcation of what is known as “common knowledge” from what is considered “known knowledge.” While certainties remain, the boundaries between what is known and what is unknown continue to shrink. As a result, many questions about certain topics remain unanswered because of this expanding informational ocean.
* Security is another issue when managing large quantities of data. No company wants to take chances with the security of its customers’ private data. Fortunately, there are several ways to secure data before it makes its way into the wrong hands. By using sophisticated data mining techniques and implementing effective security controls, businesses can limit the damage that leaking or unauthorized use of information can do.
* Big data does not create synergies. Although information technology and innovation have produced great strides forward, much of the past decade has witnessed the slow decay of what was once called the information highway. While some of the digital information age’s biggest advances have come from advances in mobile communication and media, most of today’s information is stored in silos, rather than on devices that span continents.
* Managing big data and knowledge involve managing change. The speed of technology is changing at breakneck speed, and this change has ramifications for the way that people live their lives. Managing this rapidly evolving data and knowledge requires skills that span traditional business knowledge and management, as well as an appreciation for the impact that large amounts of data can have on society as a whole.
* Big data and knowledge require collaboration. Managing information and knowledge demands that managers spend a considerable amount of time communicating among different parts of the organization. Communication requires that managers be willing to partner with others in order to build and foster collaboration. Those who do not have this willingness will quickly become frustrated with their organization’s inability to achieve goals and meet deadlines. It is important that managers develop effective collaboration skills.
* Big data and knowledge management requires big solutions. Managing information and knowledge require that managers be willing to consider big solutions that may not be feasible at first. Those whose jobs involve traditional management and project execution may find it difficult to consider large-scale projects such as those needed to address issues of climate change. Yet such managers must also recognize that the days when “small is beautiful” apply as much as ever to technology and business. Managing large amounts of data and knowledge require big thinking and commitment on the part of managers.
The future of what is big data and knowledge management looks promising. Organizations must take advantage of new technologies and continue to evolve to address issues of climate change, health care, and economic competitiveness. Those organizations that do so successfully will enjoy a powerful advantage over their competitors, as they will be positioned to respond to the needs and interests of a rapidly evolving world.