Can Real-Time Big Data Help You?

The applications of Big Data have taken some interesting turns since last year, and the latest trend is all about real-time data and startups. If you’re in entrepreneurial mode, trying to build or run a respectable startup, you’ve probably already questioned whether Big Data can help you. But before you decide to hop on the bandwagon, consider that it may be a very short ride.

On Thursday TechCrunch spread the word about an SAP “analytics tour bus” designed to educate startup teams about their new in-memory database technology called SAP HANA. Though the implications of predicting customer needs through Big Data analysis are impressive, the idea of on-demand efficiency can be quite alarming.

SAP markets its SAP HANA technology as being adept at managing large, mixed data sets gathered from multiple sources to answer difficult questions about the relationships among these sets in real-time. Queries are fast, data is voluminous, reports are instant, and text is (of course) predictive. It sounds awesome, and it is, but sometimes silver clouds have grey linings.

The Deluge

As a startup that’s already hesitant about treading into the murky waters of big data, the last thing you need is the added pressure of making faster business decisions because technology has enabled you to do so.

Now that a mountain of data has been instantly processed, paralysis by analysis may hinder your actual value-generating activities. You may find yourself asking “Do I know enough to make a decision right now?”, and the real answer may depend on the sort of data you are analyzing.

On-time, all-the-time can definitely be a good thing. Take for example the Total Revenue Protection program unveiled by Oracle in 2009. Today, we worry less mistakes and hiccups, or losing our packages in the Bermuda Triangle. Another example is how police departments can now leverage historical data sets to optimize patrol routes. That’s instant tracking.

The Ludic Fallacy

However, making hasty business decisions when data is subpar only creates the potential for making an even bigger mess. Researches at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suspect that social media derived Big Data is biased, if not completely skewed. Depending on your startup’s dependency on social networks, whether for logins or content, your Big Data is most likely a non-representative sample of the population you’re making predictions about.

We all agree that no one wants to wants to wait longer than necessary to solve problems such as curing cancer or protecting our ecosystem. But by the same token it is the gravity of these problems that means we cannot afford to engage them with a decide-in-the-moment cavalier attitude. Though tour business may have nothing to do with planetary salvation (or maybe it does), we wonder would it benefit more from data analysis that happens over time? Not all decisions benefit from being revised by the minute.

[See Also: Using Opensource ElasticSearch to Develop Big Data Omnisearch]

Think Fast, Think Slow

Today’s startup culture is dominated by the “failing fast” mentality. Not requiring a detailed business model and figuring things out as they go. But the growing minority stands by the belief that you will never know what you could have been if you don’t give your initial assumptions a good enough try. If you believe that Big Data would make a world of a difference in your startup, make sure to pinpoint the most appropriate progress/success quantifiers for your industry.

Whether gathering Big Data or small data, every one needs to bring their perspective to the table. If your perspective is to be the chameleon, it will get too difficult to keep up. Instead, get ahead. Focus on genuine value for your customer–that’s when you are always winning. Now who’s afraid of the big bad data?

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