A PSA from Our CEO on Big Data. And He’s Fired Up.

Ok, I’m irritated. And it’s not because big data isn’t important, game changing, and disruptive. It is.

Many technology leaders are actually big data companies masquerading as search (Google), E-Commerce (Amazon), social (Facebook). To quote Tom Davenport, the father of business analytics, these companies are competing on, and winning with, data.

Chartio founder Dave Fowler wrote an article yesterday for Wired about big data and business users digging into their data. Winning with analytics is not limited to just big data; it’s about winning with your data.

How We Got Here

Why is this occurring? It’s simple. We are constantly connected more and more with laptops, tablets, and phones that feed our online behavior to these big data companies. Facebook alone stores 500 terabytes of data everyday from likes, comments, photos, and everything else we reveal about ourselves. That’s 182,500 terabytes a year. I don’t know about you, but it’s difficult to wrap my head around just how much information is saved.

What’s even more amazing is that we can handle these incredible data sets, faster and cheaper than ever before. Moore’s Law gives us more computing power than we ever thought possible, with processors twice as powerful every 18 months. Out pacing this rapid innovation is data storage (doubling every 12 months) and network speed (doubling every 9 months). We’re now able to ask a new breed of questions to new sets of data.

Big data tools like Hadoop and MapReducer start to push the question of how much information can we extract from our data. But these tools are built for huge data sets (more than a terabyte) and require a robust IT and data scientist team to keep the analytics up and running. This adds another complex layer to actually getting valuable analytics in the hands of your business users.

Competing on Analytics

But let’s be clear, if you’re analyzing operational data (data generated by humans typing on a keyboard, such as ERP or CRM), you’re not using big data. There is no step function in technology required to load data measured in gigabytes.

I agree with Fowler’s point that the journalist driven “Big Data” buzzword harms the innovation that is occurring in analytics. Going forward, I think it’s important for participants in our space to define what’s in, what’s out, and how they fit in. Companies like Chartio, which gives data analysts the ability to more easily and cost effectively explore their data, or my company, InsightSquared, which offers dead simple sales analytics to arm every employee in a company to make daily data driven decisions, are being done a disservice by being placed in the same categories as big data innovators like Cloudera, Palantir, and Hadapt.

There’s another trend that we’re all riding, and that’s the consumerization of IT. It’s an intuitive way to understand business measures and make informed decisions. We often ask our prospective customers if they have a user manual, training program, or dedicated person in their business to run their Twitter account. The answer is obviously no. We hold ourselves to the same standard.

Not-big data is important too. Rather than focusing on the nascent big data market, that for the near to medium term will be restricted to larger, sophisticated organizations with budget to spare, we focus on disrupting a market that has failed to achieve meaningful penetration, and isn’t even a category yet for small businesses. We want to help the budget sensitive, smaller companies extract meaningful insights from data sitting in their CRM. Fowler makes another great point saying, “Your data is much more powerful than big data; in fact, it’s the only data you truly care about.”

InsightSquared’s Vision for the Consumerization of Data

Before starting my business I interviewed the founder and CEO of a $3B company in the enterprise data space. He said that if they sold 1,000 licenses to an enterprise, they would be perfectly happy if less than 100 ever got used. It was a CYA purchase. He said I was crazy for starting InsightSquared because in a SaaS model, we actually had to deliver value or customers would cancel. Really!?!?

We want to impact an untouched space – analytics for the business user. Why are we crazy enough to think our startup can do it? Because we have over 40 people dedicating their lives to building a company that makes visualizing and understanding your sales data simple. Because bosses are more frequently demanding that decisions be supported by analytics. Because small businesses’ success hinge on understanding their data. We want to help you solve the hard questions.

There’s a lot of innovation happening in analytics outside of big data, and I think companies employing Clay Christiansen’s disruption theory should work together to carve out their own distinct category in the market.

What should we call it?

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