Big data is a term which has been used widely over the last year or two, but what does it mean? 

Well, we asked the question in our recent Measurement and Analytics Report 2014, produced in partnership with Lynchpin

It's a term which may trigger thoughts of massive amounts of forbidding, almost unfathomable data, but what do marketers think of it? 

Big data: a useful term? 

Last year's Measurement and Analytics report found much ambivalence towards and misunderstanding of big data. 

Indeed, 8% of respondents thought that big data was a 'pointless marketing term'. 

We asked respondents 'what effect has big data had on the web analysts in your organisation?' and, as you can see from the word cloud, 'none' was the overwhelming answer: 

So has 12 months made a difference to attitudes and understanding? 

What does big data mean?

We asked 446 company respondents whether they agreed or disagreed (or were neutral) about a number of statements relating to big data. 

big data

The results suggest a more positive sentiment towards big data, with 76% agreeing that it has uncovered optimisation opportunities which would not otherwise have been possible, while 47% see it as the best way of bringing online and offline data together. 

Data scientists

Big data is nothing without the skills required to make use of it, which has led to the role of the 'data scientist', combining skills such as statistical analysis, programming, modelling and analytics. 

This new job title comes with higher salary expectations, and represents a natural evolution from the analyst role, but one that has an exploratory nature and a certain degree of business acumen.

Anjul Bhambhri, vice president of big data products at IBM, described the data scientist as:

...somebody who is inquisitive, who can stare at data and spot trends. It’s almost like a Renaissance individual who really wants to learn and bring change to an organisation. 

Q: What makes data scientists different from analysts? 

The chart shows that around three in five (64%) organisations surveyed perceive data scientists as analysts with statistical skills. However, less than a third (30%) think that data scientists possess programming skills. 

Graham Charlton

Published 1 July, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (1)


Sean burton

Completely agree that there's much confusion in the market at the moment. If also say that there's a lot of disappointment on the client side due to unfulfilled vendor promises on Big Data.

The rhetoric around Big Data had it as both the panacea to an organisations data needs and as the root of all evil in the eta of the public!

I wrote a blog on this a while back (, in which I discuss the nature of Big Data being where Web Analytics was 5-10 years ago.

Basically the industry needs good and talented people to make these tools work. Some tools and vendors are better than others and if we are to truely reach the data Nirvana, we will have to improve the UI and experience of these tools to allow better data driven navigation/investigation & organisations will need to realise that data analysis and insight is a journey not a destination.

about 4 years ago

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