Guest Post: Demystifying Big Data Analytics for business intelligence


Last week we published an article about Big Data, explaining what big data really means in detail. There was also some explanation about how businesses can leverage big data. Here is the post in case you didn’t read it.

Today’s post will expound on how businesses can get the most out of Big Data through big data analytics. This overview will assist you understand what big data analytics is, the business advantage it brings and how companies across different fields are applying it to make more informed business decisions.

What is big data analytics?
Big data analytics refers to the process of collecting, organizing and analyzing big data sets (Big Data) to discover hidden patterns, market trends, customer preferences and other useful information. Big data analytics enables data professionals analyze huge volumes of data. These could include social media content, web server logs, social network activity reports, emails from customers, customer survey responses, sensors connected to Internet of things, etc. Consider a company that accumulates thousands of data combinations in numerous data stores and different formats. They would need high-performance analytics to take care of that much data so as to distinguish between what is important & what isn’t.

The main goal of big data analytics is to assist organizations make more enlightened business decisions. According to a survey of more than 600 enterprise decision makers involved in big data purchases done recently, about half of the respondents said they were applying big data and analytics to help with product development, improve customer retention and gain a competitive advantage against their competitors. Whether a company is looking to uncover new business opportunities, improve customer service, boost sales, improve operational efficiency, or reduce risk, big data analytics can help.

Big Data in action

Health Care in Kilifi, Kenya.
In Kilifi, Kenya, Mr. Oscar Kiai, armed with a laptop, regularly visits clinics deep in the countryside mapping the success of a new vaccine to help beat child illnesses. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine impact study (PCVIS), carried out by Mr.Kiai and his teammates is creating a medical digital database of 270,000 people on the Kenyan Indian ocean coast. This data, alongside data on other vaccines &children’s clinical records is uploaded to hard drives and sent to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Kilifi town which, with The Wellcome Trust, is running the study.

“Because the database is digitized, it means it’s far easier to keep our records fresh, even if children move and access health services in different locations,” says Dr Benjamin Tsofa, the Kenyan health ministry’s chief liaison on the study.

“It is research surveillance, via digitised data capturing, which is embedded in health service delivery structures. An inevitable advantage is that it helps us improve the entire health service delivery.” He adds.

The data from the research shows that since the vaccine’s introduction in January 2011, the cases of pneumococcal disease in children under five years of age has decreased by approximately two-thirds. The data is also being used to improve Kilifi’s overall health care delivery. (Source: http://goo.gl/MJmLx6)

UAP Insurance Company, Kenya.
Insurance has long been perceived as an ungrateful business. Customer complaints never seem to subside, from complains about trouble claiming money when they need it, to spam issues. Insurance companies are also known to employ large sales teams who come off as aggressive & desperate.

UAP Insurance, a Kenyan based insurance company partnered with Safaricom (Kenya’s biggest telecommunications company) & Syngenta (Producer of crop chemicals) to help leverage big data. UAP takes advantage of the data to help them understand agriculture and designed a micro-insurance program called Kilimo Salama(Safe Agriculture) based on it. Analyzing climate and crop trends from the past 30 years, they are able to decide on compensation plans with the data of the present year without having to assess individual cases. If rainfall exceeds a certain average within the data, then the crop will be lost and the compensation can happen immediately. Since its inception in 2009, Kilimo salama has grown steadily, with more than 200,000 signups.(Source: http://goo.gl/vcxJqv)

Long before the digital age, business owners knew that information was a pillar to obtaining and maintaining an edge over competitors in the marketplace. Today, Big Data analysis takes that concept to an entirely new level.Incorporation of big data analytics in systems could vastly improve delivery of public services in industries ranging from education, wildlife conservation, public health, road safety, agriculture, climate change adaptation, counter-terrorism, tax collection, and utilization of public revenue.

Big data analytics tools
Big data analytics is typically performed using specialized software tools often used as part of advanced analytics disciplines like predictive analytics, text mining, data mining, forecasting and data optimization. Collectively, these processes are separate but highly integrated functions of high-performance analytics. Many organizations looking to collect, process and analyze big data have turned to technologies such as Hadoop and NoSQL databases. These technologies form the basis of an open source software framework that enables the processing of large data sets. Companies like IBM offer solutions such as the IBM Technical Computing which provides high performance infrastructure solutions optimized to address your big data and analytics needs. These solutions specializes in fast access to large sets of structured or unstructured data for ingest, energy-efficient processing power, and enterprise-class management software to accelerate parallel applications in a shared grid environment. Faster results, better utilization of resources, and improved insights are just a few of the benefits.

Big data challenges.
There are potential drawbacks that organizations face while leveraging big data analytics. The major pitfall is lack of internal analytics skills. The large volume of information involved, and its variety, can also cause data management problems, including consistency issues and data quality.

Are you making the most of the big data available to you? If you’re like most businesses, the answer is no. However, this is often due to lack of information and feeling intimidated by the process. Let these businesses go to work for you today–and enjoy better business tomorrow.

About the Author

Anthony Mathenge is a tireless seeker of knowledge & blogger who writes for Systech Limited, a company that deals in ICT solutions ranging from Cyber-security, Software testing, Unified Communications & Software Integration. Check out their blog here.

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