Buzz words have the unfortunate tendency to be often used but seldom clearly defined. Today we are going to tackle the popular phrase “big data” and strip it down to a clear definition. Overall the term is fairly self explanatory, it refers to large data sets, but there are 5 defining characteristics specific to big data which differentiate it from the data-sets of yesterday. These 5 characteristics are known as the 5 V’s of big data.


A defining feature of big data is the sheer volume of information which is being created and stored. While this volume would have caused issues for storage and computation, advances in these fields have allowed organizations to store and extract meaning from increasingly large data sets.


Beyond just being large, the quantity of data is growing quickly – at an exponential rate. The speed at which data is being acquired, stored, and processed poses additional challenges such as how to manage real time data streams and ensure that the analysis of data is prioritized correctly.


As more and more sources of data become available, the variety of data increases. This allows organizations to derive meaning from what were perhaps tangential or inconsequential data-sets previously. Beyond collecting numerical or text data, organizations are also routinely collecting images, audio, and video.


With a multitude of data sources available, the quality of data varies greatly from one data-set to the next. Data quality has moved from being absolute (right / wrong) to existing on a continuum (more correct / less correct). In order the ensure accurate analysis organization need to have a detailed understanding of the depth, breadth, limitations, and quirks within each of their data-sets.


Underlying all these attributes is the perception of value. Organizations believe that they can extract value from their data, but often lack a clear understanding of how to do so or what the associated costs and benefits will be.

Underlying all these attributes is a common theme: data has real value and is growing to have a increasingly larger role within business and society. Data has gone from being the exhaust emitted by business processes to a source of competitive advantage, if you can harness it. Want to learn more about how your organization can use data or the potential lying in your data – get in touch with me using the contact form. I’m excited to help you on this journey.

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