Imagine you are standing beside a beautiful stream. Your job is to observe the salmon swimming up river to spawn. You are tasked with counting and categorizing the salmon by size, color, speed, and other variables. As you settle in with your binoculars and your notebook, 50,000 salmon swim past you in the space of a couple hours. Obviously, you are not prepared to deal with the volume. You need more resources and better technology to accurately collect and understand what is taking place. Now multiply this by several orders of magnitude, and you’ll have some understanding of how the petabytes of data now available to life science businesses is even more staggering.
Big Data permeates virtually every aspect of the life science industry. It has a presence in R & D, clinical trials, marketing, sales, strategy, and HR. Big Data exploded with the rise of the digital medium as a form factor, and the Internet as a transport mechanism. Now that all of this information is flowing freely in the digital realm, how can we use this raw information to be more competitive, make better decisions, and achieve a higher ROI?
Big Data certainly has a major presence in R & D, but it truly gushes on the consumer side. Every person with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone can contribute new data to the stream - and businesses can analyze this stream in real time. Social media is one of the latest channels for collecting Big Data, but we still have very healthy conduits in the form of email, discussion forums, surveys, web portals, and many other platforms.
Revelations that took months or even years to understand, now may only take days, or even just hours in some cases.
We’ve never had as many opportunities to examine all of this data as we have now. We’ve never had as much brainpower creating tools and working on implementing programs as we have today. But the new way of business is not without its share of major hurdles.
Three Key Big Data Challenges
- Transitioning from data to insight
- Systems cannot process large volumes of data from different sources
- Lacking the talent to undertake deep analysis of big data
Much like salmon in spawn, Big Data is largely untamed. Fortunately it is tamable. We’re developing better tools and technologies to understand this data, but the amount of effort and resources required is substantial. Once a good infrastructure is in place, the ROI can be massive. In fact, if you aren’t deep into Big Data yet, you are falling behind your competitors.
The volume of data will continue to grow, as well as the number and diversity of channels it flows through. Companies need the plan, the tools, and the talent to understand the data and use the findings to make the best decisions for all stakeholders.
We’d like to know your thoughts. Please tweet your ideas using hashtag #bigdata. Feel free to leave your comment under this blog post as well.
Data Management: Getting Value from Big Data, PharmaVOICE September 2013
Big Data to Transform R & D, PharmaVOICE November/December 2013