Two Mega Trends: Big Data and the iPad … Where do they converge?

It’s no secret that Big Data is an emerging mega trend now and into the forseeable future. David Feinleib’s slideshare presentation on Big Data Trends shows a concise and current summary of where things are headed in the Big Data movement

Enter mega trend #2, the iPad. The current market share for iPads is strong and is projected to continue until 2016, according to the recent IDC study. I can say first-hand that most executives in our network are now in the habit of bringing their iPads with them wherever they go.
Big Data and iPad Mega Trends

So if the leaders and decision-makers are about to be consumers of Big Data (they may not know it yet), and if they are all toting their iPads to their meetings, there must be an opportunity or two for forward-looking Big Data thinkers. This post is intended to start a conversation around the question:

If Big Data is growing like mad
And business leaders are using iPads more and more …
What’s our collective best guess as to …


Where these two mega trends converge?

I’m sure this post will generate a decent discussion thread. To kick things off, I’ll put out my own thoughts.

There will be an increasing need to simplify the “so what” message
Tablet apps can be beautiful to look at, but they are rarely as successful when trying to pack a lot of information into a small space. Designers will increasingly need to give disproportionate attention to the “so what” message when reporting Big Data results.
So what

As Lachlan James outlined in the recent post, on Top Business Intelligence dashboard design best practices intentional, effective and clear communication must be priority number one.

So if we agree with that idea, then instead of filling 90% of the reporting space with different charts and tables of results, perhaps the future way of iPad-friendly reporting would be like headlines in a newspaper, with catchy titles like: “We can accurately predict 80% of our adverse hospital events based on these 5 factors” or “65% of our customer retention in the Pacific Northwest and be explained by these 3 attributes”. Underneath the headline would be the supporting detail and charts.

This presents a challenge in automating the process of taking Big Data results, and explaining what they are saying in plain english. Perhaps there is a whole new area of opportunity here, with some links to artificial intelligence.

People will want to play
By the light-hearted nature of the iPad device, it lends itself to playing. Not that one would expect there to be a Big Data version of Angry Birds, but the concept of playing and interacting with Big Data seems like a likely user expectation. Perhaps as leaders interact with the summarized results of Big Data efforts, they will want to do things like:

  • Evaluate “what if” scenarios, such as “What if this pattern observed in this one customer segment applied to our whole customer base?”
  • Take an observed Big Data finding and forecast it into the future (i.e. If this trend continues, what will things look like 1 year from now?)
  • Play with different ways of visualizing complex Big Data results, using different charting tools, plotting symbols, colors, etc. (i.e. a techie version of “arts and crafts”).

Angry data
Parts of the dashboard may be ever-changing
The nature of Big Data is that it is ever-growing and ever-evolving. Which means that “what was interesting and useful” today, might be taken as a given tomorrow. In addition, as companies use more or and more external data (as opposed to just using their own internal data) it may introduce another element of variability in terms of where the Big Data stories are. So, unlike previous BI and dashboard reporting efforts (i.e. with KPIs and measures that generally don’t change that much), the reporting canvas for Big Data may be constantly changing.

Translating this to the iPad experience, a core competency in reporting Big Data results through an iPad might be “the ability to educate as you go”. Leaders and executives will constantly be exposed to new findings and new measures, and they will need help getting up to speed regarding on what the findings mean. Conceivably, this may need to take place on the fly during the reporting stage, using popup videos or animations – using a broadcast email to communicate updates won’t likely cut it any more!

There will be an increasing need to simplify and track the “doing” step
As is often the case with reporting great results, nothing really matters if there’s no “doing” step. As leaders view the Big Data results in their iPads, they will inevitably get to a point in the meeting where someone says “We should do something about that”. The process of tracking “who is acting on what” will become more important for a few reasons:

  • Many people will see the results, but it might not be clear if anyone has started taking action. Nobody wants to duplicate efforts, but at the same time nobody wants to drop the ball.
  • There will be a lot of results, and a lot of actions to take, so if the full value of the information is to be realized then it’s important for there to be a means for tracking the actions.

The reporting of Big Data in the near future may be more like the Social Media experience and the Customer Relationship Management experience, with lots of communication and interaction.

I’m sure there are many people out there who know much more on this subject, so I encourage you to weigh in, whatever your point of view is.

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