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Big Data Is Here to Stay


Big data has proven to be far more than a passing fad or buzzword. Big data has applications that cross industry boundaries: From politics to finance, healthcare to social media interactions, large sums of data collection impacts almost every aspect of people's modern-day lives, and it's here to stay.

Data scientists and data analytics professionals are at the center of this data information revolution. They harness data's potential through complex analysis, helping organizations draw actionable insight to drive data-informed decision-making.

The online Master of Science (M.S.) in Data Analytics program from Northwest Missouri State University prepares students for these in-demand professional roles. Degree candidates learn how to extract insight from massive volumes of data and apply that knowledge to solve complex business problems. Today's organizations rely on professionals with this expertise to survive and thrive in the era of big data.

What Is Big Data?

Oracle defines big data as "larger, more complex data sets, especially from new data sources. These data sets are so voluminous that traditional data processing software just can't manage them." Because these sets of data are so large, they "can be used to address business problems [experts] wouldn't have been able to tackle before."

Investopedia further explains that big data encompasses "the volume of information, the velocity or speed at which it is created and collected, and the variety or scope of the data points being covered." Northwest's course titled Streaming Data focuses on these variables in terms of massive volume and high-rate data generated from a wide variety of sources.

The free-flowing data from real-time sources is generally categorized as "unstructured" in its raw form. "Structured" big data, on the other hand, is information that is (or can be) organized, formatted and stored numerically in databases or spreadsheets.

Raw, unstructured data collected from sources like social media platforms, smart devices, website traffic and mobile apps can be unwieldy and overwhelming. However, they provide invaluable insights to organizations. Technological advancements in data analytics software allow more targeted collection and automated, highly usable analysis. In a sense, these modern technologies can structure big data in real-time, offering on-demand analytics and insight.

How Do Organizations Use Big Data?

Data analytics aims to identify relationships and patterns between different kinds of data. These practices translate vast datasets into usable information concerning what has happened, what is happening, what is likely to happen and what one should do about it.

With these advanced diagnostic, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics, data scientists can extract actionable insight from big data. This insight can inform and improve strategic decision-making regarding every aspect of an organization's operations.

Here are a few examples of how big data and analytics are reshaping a wide variety of industries:

E-Commerce and Online Marketing: E-commerce and big data are a perfect match. Data from purchase and search history, public social media comments and conversations around a smart device can help companies target and personalize ads and product recommendations. Professionals can utilize myriad other big data sources to determine the most effective time and place for targeted ad placement. This examination brings personalized marketing to consumers where and when they are most likely to respond positively.

Politics: As CIO notes, "Data – or more specifically, the interpretation of it – can make or break a political campaign." Politicians use analysis of voter data to design political campaigns, target voters and sculpt political platforms to garner the most support from a political base and win over new voters. When in office, politicians can also use big data and analytics to create informed solutions to challenging problems, ideally helping them better serve the public good.

Streaming Entertainment: Top streaming entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify have integrated big data analytics to great effect. These services analyze viewer/listener habits, content performance and other data to make personalized recommendations, generate playlists and create new content targeted toward specific markets.

Sports: Sports organizations are improving game strategy and athlete performance by analyzing data generated from a multitude of cameras, pattern recognition software and sensors. Analytics Insight reports that analytics helped British rowers win the Olympic gold.

Agriculture: Analytics Insight also points out the fascinating ways big data improves efficiency, increases yields and reduces costs for farmers. Online tools can integrate data from ground sensors, satellite imagery and weather forecasts to help farmers plan, monitor conditions, predict yields and optimize practices with precision.

These are merely a few ways big data is impacting diverse industries. Organizations and industries of all types are leveraging big data analytics to optimize, adapt and pivot. With volatility and uncertainty becoming the norm, agility and rapid, data-informed decision-making are key to organizational resilience and success.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online Master of Science in Data Analytics program.



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