Here's How Big Data Will Help Solve Problems in 2014

Everywhere you look, the conversation around 'big data' is growing. From conferences, to B2B blog posts, to tech writers, to the board rooms of multi-national companies -- everyone is looking for ways to unlock the promise that comes with big data.

And the focus is both internal and external. Companies are realizing that the collective data housed within the walls of their company could yield the intelligence that sparks innovation and collaboration like never before.

The external focus is on a new set of social sentiment data provided by customers that is infused with behavioral science and analytics that could give us the next level of loyalty programs or help identify 'at risk' customers for intervention.

Scott Hebner, VP of Social Business Solutions at IBM said it best. "There is a gold mine of data that is brand new and businesses are just now starting to learn how to use it."

Big data leads to small insights -- insights that are targeted and smart. Think about a store locator on your smart phone. You search for furniture stores and ask for three choices. The actual data query is huge and filled with hundreds of decision points based on location, preferences, behavior, sentiment and much more. It's not the big data that's smart -- it's the way it's found and delivered that makes it meaningful.

But the data set that gets delivered to your phone is small -- and smart. You get results based on your criteria and off you go to visit the 3 stores in your area.

Big data is hardly ever analyzed in huge sets. It is parsed and retrieved based on specific, targeted search and query. And yet, locked in that huge data set is the small, smart, and targeted intelligence needed by employees to innovate or customers to make business decisions.

2014 will see big data yielding small insights that solve problems. Scott is right -- it's a gold mine out there and the work is just beginning.

Beverly Macy is an author, educator, and thought-leader in digital and social business. She also hosts the hit show Social Media Radio. Email her at and look for her presentation at IBM Connect 2014 in January 2014.