Big Data

Big Data

by Karl Sorensen

While it is true that ‘big data’ is rapidly changing all of our lives, the human element is still an integral determinant of how that change can and will happen.  Speaking in Chicago late last month at the well-attended AGC-IT Forum, keynote speaker James Vaselopulos (Sr. Vice President of PSC Group, LLC) wanted to set everyone straight. With a background in financial services, logistics, manufacturing and software, Vaselopulos is no stranger to the numbers game.  In his presentation entitled Big Data, Vaselopulos dispelled four unfounded expectations that consistently haunt the data/information industries today.

Big Data Expectation #01:  Answers to all questions are just there!  They just need to be harvested.

Big Data Reality:  Answers are not data and data are not answers.  Companies must learn how to interact with data.  Just because data is available, does not mean that meaningful information can be collected.

Big Data Expectation #02:  If we could get more data directly to users, they would be happy and make better decisions.

Big Data Reality:  Sorry. Humans are fallible.  Even with the correct data, people can still misinterpret data and make mistakes.  Not everyone has training in statistics.  So just because the data is acquired, the right deductions may not take place.

Big Data Expectation #03:  Because it’s data, there must be a right answer

Big Data Reality:  We as individuals can only compute a very limited amount of data.  Says Vaselopulos, “[Data] interpretation can be as positive and as dangerous as the analyst allows.”  Be careful to understand the data before drawing conclusions and acting on them.

Big Data Expectation #04:  New technology and advanced software can do ALL the work.

Big Data Reality:  Human intervention is, and will always be, necessary for statistical analysis.  New technology is able to consume the data, but humans must be able to provide the interpretation.

So what does Vaselopulos say companies can do to make the most of Big Data?

  1. If you provide context, you get clarity:  context drives people to the right decision
  2. Focus on human psychology to facilitate interpretation
  3. Synchronize velocity and accuracy for greater business relevance:  the pace of business is incredibly fast; timing is very important.  Be quick and accurate.
  4. Provide split-times to make information actionable:  know how to use information as action-items.  Information that does not drive action is useless.  

To find out more about Big Data here in Chicago, check out


Karl Sorensen of Burnham Works

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