Harvard looks to identify the true value of big data

There are those who believe that the big data trend is mostly made of hype and then there are others who try to utilize as much as they can from it. A number of business professionals and researchers have claimed that organizations criticizing the technology as unwieldy have often tried to profit off of digital information without knowing how to harness it. 

Educational scrutiny 
As it is still a relatively young concept, big data is being dissected by young intellectuals set to join the workforce at a pivotal time in the IT industry. The Harvard Gazette reported that the Ivy League school offers a class that challenges students to manage enormous data sets. "Statistics 183, Learning from Big Data," is incredibly project-intensive, with teams consisting of college seniors and graduates working to solve complex issues and gain business-applicable insight from the digital information. 

Eliminating the exam- and lecture-based learning formats, Luke Bornn, assistant professor of statistics, wanted students to collaborate and work with each other, as this is what executives in the real world are forced to do when analyzing data collections through cloud computing tools. 

"My hope is that they have this ability to say: Here's a scientific or business problem, here's a big data set that may or may not be useful, and then be able to go from the raw data to a full write-up," said Bornn, as quoted by the news source. 

One task the students were assigned to address was to devise a manner to predict the outcome of the NCAA basketball tournament. Using data points on team capabilities and the competition's match-ups, the colleagues then conducted research from around the Web to figure out which teams will advance. 

Gaining success
Although amassing data into cloud storage is a good first step, it doesn't produce the desired result by itself. Some companies fail in their endeavors to gain market insight from big data because they don't place appropriate value in where it needs to be. 

Tom Davenport, a contributor to Harvard Business Review, stated there are many misconceptions regarding what makes a dissection project successful. In order to clear the air, he assembled a list of three assets companies must possess in order to get their feet off the ground:

  • Davenport claimed that hiring new personnel to make sense of digital information isn't all that necessary. Like the Statistics 183 class at Harvard, corporations should assemble a team of existing employees with extensive quantitative, computational and business knowledge to educate and encourage one another. 
  • Before embarking on a quest for big data-driven insight, it's important that companies have a clear goal in mind. The less ambiguous the objective, the better the team will be able to focus on the endeavor. Executives should ask themselves what their enterprise needs. 
  • Possessing a good manager at the helm of the project is imperative. When a collection of professionals with differing thought processes attempt to collaborate, it can often result in a cluttered mess. Having a leader in place acting as a sort of mediator between these experts will keep everyone on the same page. 

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