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What's the Big Deal about "Big Data"?

By Vikas Chawla, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley

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Vikas Chawla, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley

Our IT industry is “buzz word” trigger happy.  You can make a living out of just knowing the latest buzz words and throwing them around in meetings as if you are an expert.  Majority of the buzz words die out while some survive and thrive.  “Big Data” seems to belong to the latter category and has some wind behind it. The emergence of Big Data has spawned a series of related buzz words like “Data Lake”, “Predictive Analytics”, “Machine Learning”, “Unstructured Data”, and “Hadoop” etc. The other characteristic of our industry is that the same word can mean different things to different people.  “Big Data” and “Cloud” are prime examples. If you asked 25 industry experts about what the terms meant they would come up different perspectives on it.

"The harnessing of Big Data is a combination of understanding the data, predictive analytics and machine learning"

One thing is for sure. The data we produce is growing at an exponential pace.  Earlier the data was being produced by humans and about humans and thus was limited in nature.  Now, machines have started producing data at an enormous pace which has given rise to the “IOT” or Internet of Things paradigm. “The rate at which we're generating data is rapidly outpacing our ability to analyze it,” Professor Patrick Wolfe, Executive Director of the University College of London’s Big Data Institute, tells Business Insider. “The trick here is to turn these massive data streams from a liability into strength.” The data that a company possesses is its lifeline. The companies that have mastered the understanding of data have shown tremendous amount of growth. 

Some of the leaders in the area are Amazon, Google, Linkedin, Facebook, Netflix and Uber. Amazon has done very well with its recommendation engines which recommend the book or item based on your current purchase or past purchase.  The ads that start appearing on your browser are based on the search terms entered by the user.  Net flix has effectively leveraged the cloud (read AWS) to enhance the viewing experience depending on the device of the user and also recommending the movies that will be of interest to the viewer. 

The harnessing of Big Data is a combination of understanding the data, predictive analytics and machine learning. Imagine a company like American Express which owns the consumer credit card, commercial credit cards and the network. It has the insight into the consumer and commercial spending down to each sector. It has an understanding of how each industry is doing as well as the picture of the economy much before any official numbers are published.

We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of the Big Data. Big Data is here to stay and is going to get even bigger. The demand for it is going to grow and if you are an individual who has expertise in Data Science or Big Data Technology then you have job security and a huge opportunity to learn.  If you are a corporation then you need to start investing in the technology. The learning curve is a little steep but once you start makes sense of the data it will give you insights that will change the way you conduct your business.

In fact, “Big Data is a Big deal and is here to stay”.

Morgan Stanley mobilizes capital to help governments, corporations, institutions and individuals around the world achieve their financial goals. Headquartered in New York, USA, the company has more than 55,000 employees in 1,200 offices across 43 countries.