The Decision Maker

Buzz Off: Big Data Moves from Hype to Reality

Posted by Peter Keers, PMP on Feb 2, 2014 5:02:48 PM

Credit Union leaders are painfully aware that new ideas in technology often explode on the scene in excited waves of hyperbole (hence, “hype”). Big Data certainly fell into this pattern. Not only were there unending media reports about the subject (“buzz”), but most credit union decision makers were hard-pressed to define precisely what was meant by the term Big Data and how it would help their organizations.

According to a recent article ( by Chris Mellor in The Register, a UK-based technology news and opinion website, the Big Data discussion is taking on a more practical tone. Commenting on a conference he recently attended, Mellor observed that, “ [Big Data] was just there, a third leg added to the data warehousing and business intelligence stool. The concepts of getting intelligence from data could have been borrowed wholesale from a DW/BI conference five years ago.”

This trend is welcome. It means valuable Big Data concepts can more confidently be integrated into the thinking of real-world decision makers who want to improve credit union performance through data-driven decisions.

Yet, Mellor’s metaphor of the three-legged stool is evidence of a hangover from the Big Data buzz. It is undeniable that important innovations have arisen out of the Big Data phenomena. Yet, Big Data is just another milestone on the journey toward more fact-based decision making.

If data warehousing applies to data handling and business intelligence applies to analytics, Big Data clearly has made major contributions to both. However, defining it as a separate entity continues the confusion over what it is and what value it offers.

Credit unions will breathe easier with the clearing of the hype smokescreen. In doing so, they should focus on answering two major questions:

  • Is the data needed to improve organizational decisions available and reliable?
  • Once the data is available and reliable, is there a vision about how the organization is going to use the data to make desired performance gains?

Whether Big Data or small data, the answers to these questions are the place to start the journey toward fact-based decision making.

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Topics: Reporting and Analytics, Big Data, Credit Unions, Data Analytics