Big data refers to the large sets of data now available to businesses from several digital technology sources. It can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends and insights for better decision making and strategic planning.[1]

The rapid growth of digital technology and social media has made data widely available. Mobile phones, social media websites, web logs, electronic devices and sensors connected through the internet of things (IoT) all generate massive amounts of data.[2] By 2020, it is projected that 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created each second for every human being on earth.[3]

Big data is fueling the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, machine intelligence, neural networks and cognitive computing applications. Big data analytics is being used in a wide range of industries, from health care organizations tracking patient populations to consumer goods companies gaining a better understanding of customer preferences, buying patterns and key influencers in decision-making.[4]

Information technology (IT) departments play critical roles in integrating big data analytics into business planning and operations. They are being called upon to lead major big-data projects in areas including:[5]

  • IoT-generated data – Technology connected through the IoT will generate massive amounts of unstructured and machine data. IT departments are working to aggregate and rationalize this data into workable formats for rapid analysis.
  • Conversion of materials into digital data – Most businesses still have a wealth of paper-based documents, videos, photos and other materials that could be mined for big data aggregations. IT departments are being called upon to help transform this “dark data” material into digital format.
  • Securing data warehouses and repositories – As more data moves to the cloud and cyber threats increase, more emphasis is being placed on the secure storage and warehousing of big data. IT departments are gathering advice from consultants and vendors to update and tighten data access policies and procedures.
  • Actionable analytics – The drive for faster analytics and actionable data by business leaders is propelling IT departments to seek ways to deliver results faster.

IT departments will continue to explore big data analytics techniques and play a critical role in integrating big data into business operations. To succeed, these applications must add tangible value to operations and demonstrate return on investment to the business.

[1] Definition of big data, SAS website, available at:

[2] “Top Five High-Impact Use Cases for Big Data Analytics,” white paper published by Datameer, 2016. Available at:

[3] “Big Data: 20 Mind-Boggling Facts Everyone Must Read,” by Bernard Marr, blog post on, Sept. 20, 2015. Available at:

[4] “15 data and analytics trends that will dominate 2017,” by Thor Olavsrud, CIO, Feb. 6, 2017. Available at:

[5] “6 big data trends to watch in 2017,” by Mary Shacklett, TechRepublic blog, Dec. 23, 2016. Available at:

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