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The vital shift from big data to big answers

November 2013

CIOs need to stop focusing on the scale of raw data now available to them, argues Harper Reed, and start concentrating on the big questions it can answer.

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Big data will be a topic on every major corporation’s agenda for 2014. But what CXOs actually want to talk about, according to Harper Reed, is not the sheer scale of the data they can now get hold of and store, but how they can answer their big, pressing questions. 

“People are wrongly conflating big data, and all the hardcore ops and infrastructure behind it, with getting the answers to their questions,” says the former CTO of Obama for America 2012 and now CEO of Lunar Technology, in our exclusive video.

To make the leap from amassing billions of rows of data to obtaining valuable insight, he argues, organizations need to empower a new set of roles. Chief analytics officers, chief metrics officers and the like need to have enough clout to make bold statements to management boards, such as: “Based on our data, this is what needs to happen,” says Reed.

Anything outside of that focus on answers in a big data context is simply about storage solutions and marketing, he adds.
“It’s worth storing all of your data — forever — although I’ll probably get kicked out of the EU for saying so.”

It’s time for some soul-searching about just how valuable all of this data actually is, he says, and whether it all needs to be analyzed. “We do need to be more thoughtful about the data we store,” he argues. “People are going to have so much data coming in that they are going to find that while they can store it they are not going to be able to use [large parts of it].”

Nevertheless, data is going to get increasingly easy and cheap to storage, says Reed. “I’d say that it’s worth storing all of your data, forever. I think that’s very important. Even though saying so will probably get me kicked out of the EU.”

First published
November 2013
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About: Harper Reed
Social media pioneer Harper Reed, 35, led IT for Obama for America 2012, orchestrating the most sophisticated application of technology ever in a political campaign. He is now CEO of m-commerce start-up Lunar Technology.
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