We have previously written about the importance of discipline in terms of art like Big Data. There are plenty of indications that more discipline and rigor is required on how we use the term. To date, our key message has been that it is the enterprise CTO who is responsible for defining how the term should be used. We still believe that.
We have also always supported using the community-edited site Wikipedia’s entry on Big Data as a starting point for a Big Data definition. The definition I put there was morphed and edited by the community pretty significantly, but that is just the nature of the beast. The end result of a collaborative site like that is usually far better than if a single person had created a definition so it is definitely worth checking out as you determine how to use the Big Data term in your enterprise.
But another source now offers a Big Data definition that I like even better than Wikipedia’s. The use of the term Big Data by the TechAmerica Foundation’s Federal Big Data Commission is a fantastic start and it is based on inputs from real champions of IT who have been fielding real solutions into the largest enterprises in the globe (see: TechAmerica Foundation’s Big Data Commission Publishes Comprehensive Guide to Best Practices for Big Data). They define Big Data as: “A phenomenon defined by the rapid acceleration in the expanding volume of high velocity, complex, and diverse types of data. Big Data is often defined along three dimensions — volume, velocity, and variety.” They further underscore that Big Data requires “advanced techniques and technologies to enable the capture, storage, distribution, management, and analysis of the information.” I like the way they did this, because the first part of the definition is one that can be used by any mission focused planner and the second is one that is more actionable for designers of solutions.
So, as you consider how you will be using this term in your organization, I suggest you use this TechAmerica report as a starting point. The more we form up on these common definitions the better we will be able to articulate and move out towards common visions. Use of common definitions will also allow us to more quickly share lessons learned on what works and what doesn’t. The definitions to form up on are:
Big Data: A phenomenon defined by the rapid acceleration in the expanding volume of high velocity, complex and diverse types of data. Big Data is often defined along three dimensions– volume, velocity and variety.
Big Data Solutions: Advanced techniques and technologies to enable the capture, storage, distribution, management and analysis of information.