When we hear the phrase ‘big data’ most of us think about the information and insight that can be gleaned from analysing the vast amounts of untapped data pools lying within our businesses. The industry is saturated with opinion about big data analysis in order to draw usable insights and ultimately aid customer retention or enhance business processes. However, although incredibly important, these thoughts overshadow the conversation around management of, and access to, big data. Although storage of information has come under scrutiny, the link to large volumes of data and secure, efficient access remains relatively tentative in many conversations.
Analytics aside, without the management basics in place, it would never be possible for companies to use big data in a meaningful way. It’s clear that dealing with huge volumes of structured and unstructured data has introduced a new set of challenges for the IT department, most of which have been answered with cloud services.
We’re living in an economy which is increasingly based around service provision and from a security point of view throws up several concerns. Usually in reference to the geographically dispersed architecture of services provided and information stored, security implications are – I would argue – the biggest barriers to businesses getting the most from their data. But my main concern for organisations is identity and access management (IAM), or lack thereof.
Quite simply, insightful data can only be used effectively if it can be accessed by the right people, on the device that is most convenient to them. The challenge is managing access across a wide variety of demands from the business. What IT departments, in conjunction with the business, need to do is ensure that the right information can be accessed by the right individuals (be that customers, employees of varying levels, suppliers or partners) at any given time and location in order for them to interact with the business accordingly. Getting this wrong affects the ability for businesses to use valuable insight derived from big data. IAM can help organisations manage the level of access for different types of users across the business. A recent survey conducted across eight European countries by independent analyst house Quocirca found that the top IT management challenge eased by IAM is the enforcement and management of access policy. Those surveyed also cited that IAM improves the user experience by providing easy federated access to multiple applications. So, we can see that access is a key issue for IT management teams and that by allowing the appropriate level of access to data companies can enable their employees to increase their productivity and use the insight from big data to provide value back to the business.
The importance of using data to derive greater understanding and improve efficiency is obvious and there are plenty of experts and technologies which enable businesses of all size to do just that. But before big data can be processed, analysed or used, it should first be considered how it will be managed and, equally as important, accessed.