I’ve been working with enterprise data for nearly half my life. Over the last four months, I’ve been finishing the manuscript of my fifth book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data (John Wiley & Sons, March 2013). It’s funny how the human brain works – or at least my brain. Once I’m aware of a trend, it seems to pop up everywhere, and Big Data is no exception.
In hindsight, the idea of Big Data has been stuck in my big head for a while now. In The Age of the Platform, I wrote about how Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google exhibit nothing less than exceptional data management, collection and analysis methods. And the results speak for themselves. While Big Data is no elixir to every business problem, in 2013 organizations that understand and take advantage of Big Data will do better than those that don’t.
But where and how can we get this information?
Enter the Data Broker
A few weeks ago at a mixer in Las Vegas, I met a real-life data broker. Yes, he buys and sells data for a living. He was a bit taken aback as I peppered him with questions about his methods. Something tells me that he’s not alone, and I’d hazard to guess that it’s a job with a pretty bright future.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that data broker is an entirely new vocation. Fifteen years ago, I worked at a Fortune 50 company that routinely purchased healthcare data from IMS. Still, the rise of the independent data broker seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.
But what if you don’t want to buy data from a potentially shady character in a back alley in Sin City at 11:30 pm? What if you wanted to generate your own data? Fortunately, today it’s never been easier – and more affordable. For instance, some authors are now using sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to test different book titles, subtitles and covers. MTurk is a crowdsourcing marketplace that effectively matches buyers and sellers. In short, it provides incentives for people to provide user-requested answers to questions and opinions. Requesters set up Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) and offer small rewards for voting. In a nutshell, Amazon uses human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are currently unable to do. (Browse the available HITs on MTurk now and you’ll find an astonishing variety of subjects.)
The democratization of data is in full swing. It’s never been easier to generate, collect and store information that could help your business. The trick is finding the signal in that noise, a subject to which I’ll return frequently on this site throughout 2013.
What say you?