Is Big Data Important for Non-Technical People?

Over the past several years, it seems as if anyone who speaks the language of technology has reached the consensus that “Big Data is the future.” With the Big Data market projected to reach $50 Billion by 2017, it is easy to see how IT professionals reach that conclusion.

Accordingly, it can be assumed that understanding Big Data and its associated analytic tools will provide leaders insight to drive the innovation and business strategies of tomorrow. However, outside of technology offices, you won’t often hear much talk about Big Data at the water cooler.

Non-technical people just aren’t interested in Big Data. Why is this?

It seems too technical. As long as there are technology people who understand Big Data, the “everyman” can go about life as usual without worrying about another larger-than-life technology term.

It is too loosely defined. Big Data is talked about in a variety of ways and for a variety of broad purposes. It is difficult for the average non-technical person to find a specific resource for the direct application of Big Data principles to his or her particular work-stream. (It may be wonderful that retailers can collect certain data using microchips, but what does that mean for me, and how do I capitalize on that?)

Non-technical people aren’t the usual target audience of Big Data training. Those who are trained on Big Data concepts are usually the ones who understand it and can apply it at work.

That being said, there are legitimate reasons that C-suite executives have a need to thoroughly understand the Big Data concept and its propensity for driving strategy and initiatives. Leaders who aren’t data experts cannot afford to fly blindly in this arena.

In addition, workers in organizations that are big data customers will need an understanding of how the information and data they consume was developed and analyzed. This understanding will help them to create better strategies for collecting and interpreting data in the future.

Finally, an employee who plans to develop, implement, or evaluate strategy at any point in the next thirty years will need to understand the Big Data lexicon. A massive amount of business decisions across industries will rely on Big Data in the coming years. In this context, workers’ present, transient ignorance is shaping up to be an excuse for future failures.

Both the public and private sectors certainly recognize the Big Data trend – it is talked about enough. But there is another associated need that requires further exploration. How can organizations ensure that their non-technical employees know enough about the theory and analytic capabilities associated with Big Data to make effective business decisions and maintain competitive advantage in an evolving technological world? The non-technical leaders of tomorrow MUST learn enough about Big Data to maintain personal and organizational viability in the years to come.

Dr. Paul Eder is a Lead Consultant with The Center for Organizational Excellence, Inc. (COE). The opinions in this piece are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of COE or Innovategov.org.

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