20 big questions to be asking about Big Data

Posted on April 06, 2013 by Rob Petersen




“Big Data” is shorthand for the collection of large amounts of data from places like web-browsing data trails, social network communications, sensor and surveillance data that is searched for patterns, new revelations and insights. It’s a catchy term that implies major transformation.

Companies like Amazon, Cisco, Google and IBM are examples of leaders in Big Data. Although most companies aren’t like them, it is clear many will follow their lead because:

  • 91% of marketing leaders believe successful brands use customer data to drive business decisions (source: BRITE/NYAMA)
  • 90% of the world’s total data has been created just within the past two years (source: IBM)
  • 87% agree capturing and sharing the right data is important to effectively measuring ROI in their own company (BRITE/NYAMA)
  • 75% of companies say they will increase investments in Big Data within the next year (source: Avanade)

But it’s not the data, it’s what you do with it. Before your company jumps into Big Data, here are 20 questions you should be asking.


  1. What are the decisions you want the data to help you make?
  2. What can’t you do today that Big Data could help you do?
  3. What issues does it clarify to move the business forward?
  4. How do results inform or compel action in the organization?
  5. What is the Return on Investment (ROI)?


  1. What skills, technologies, and existing data development practices do you have in place that could help kick-start a Big Data effort?
  2. Where does the data come from and what are the best methods available to collect the data?
  3. Is it data at rest, data in motion or data in use? Is the data trustworthy? Is the data volatile and incomplete?
  4. What does proof-of-concept look like?
  5. What determines whether the business should “green light” a Big Data investment?


  1. Who are your customers? What are their needs? How do they drive the business?
  2. What combination of factors produce the best results for your customer?
  3. How does the data help you understand how to motivate a mass audience and also satisfy individual needs?
  4. Can the data predict how customers react to a future event based on their reaction to a similar event in the past?
  5. Are there locations, geography, time of year or time of day when the best results for your customers are likely to occur?


  1. Can your company manage the changes brought by Big Data?
  2. What values matter most to the organization, and what marriage of data, algorithms and change get us there?
  3. Is the set of metrics that you’re measuring within the security posture of an organization?
  4. Is there a right set of metrics? Are the current set of tools providing vision with the best possible clarity?
  5. Are you working with the right model? How do you know? How do you improve it if it is or make changes if it’s not?

These question are to help you see the potential Big Data has on your business as well as your company’s values and culture. Since it’s also going to require a big investment of money, time and talent, it’s worth it to be asking the big questions before you begin.

Do these questions help? Is your company ready for Big Data?

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