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The potential of big data analytics to transform decision making

In today’s environment, as forward-thinking government and commercial enterprises move to the cloud to improve scalability, agility, automation and efficiency, data is flowing from more sources than ever before. By 2020, the amount of information in our economy is expected to grow by 44 times.

So how do we prepare for this eruption of data?

The reality is that many organizations aren’t ready. Some still look at data through conventional means, relying on techniques which worked well for structured databases but are not up to the challenge of dealing with “big data.” As a result, the full value of the data remains out of reach.

Fortunately, there are advanced methods and means of storing, accessing and using data are opening up new channels of understanding, allowing the data to “speak” directly to us — and share insights we did not even know to ask. It’s these news insights that enhance business efficiency and mission effectiveness.

Connecting it all

In today’s cloud environment, taking full advantage of an organization’s cloud infrastructure and cloud analytics is critically important to reaching new insights. Unless organizations make the right infrastructure decisions, they run the risk of not being able to create the kind of secure repository of all data sources that truly unlocks the value of their data — what Booz Allen Hamilton calls a “data lake.” And unless they make the right data management decisions, they won’t be able to draw new insights from the data in that “lake."

What’s needed to bring these cloud elements together is the adoption of a Cloud Analytics Reference Architecture that integrates the cloud-related activities, processes and technology of an organization into one operating model. This is not an add-on investment — rather, the Cloud Analytics Reference Architecture allows organizations to leverage and modernize the IT assets they already have to eventually draw more insightful analytics.

The Reference Architecture uses the power of cloud computing and storage to put an organization’s entire universe of data into the data lake, and applies sophisticated analytics to draw new insights from the raw data. This capability enables the data to “speak” in new ways to staff at all levels in an organization, and anticipates the rapidly climbing volume, variety and velocity of data.

New insights contribute to business decisions

The Cloud Analytics Reference Architecture enables staff to quickly gather and act on expansive insights from all available data, regardless of format or location. This is possible because machines take care of 80 percent of the work — quickly processing massive amounts of data at a quicker pace — and people focus on applying creative analysis to the rest.

Previously, many organizations may have lacked the scalability in their IT systems to generate value from compute-intensive data analysis, such as large-scale image processing, sensor data correlation, social network analysis, encryption/decryption, data mining, simulations and pattern recognition.

For example, financial institutions use this capability to prevent fraud committed by customers or employees who steal information from the organizations’ computer networks. Using the Cloud Analytics Reference Architecture, banks can consolidate a wide array of data sources — such as social media, public records and even users’ normal computer behavior — and then continuously searches for anomalous activity. This enables financial institutions to look across large populations of customers and employees on the network in real time, and proactively identify the highest-risk individuals.

With the architecture underpinning their analysis, analysts and decision makers can form new connections between all of this data to uncover previously hidden trends and relationships. These mission-enabling insights can then be made available to leadership in on-demand dashboards or visualizations.

This new framework delivers enhanced technological capability and allows for human insights and action that can foster greater collaboration and teamwork. This is the combination that will ultimately deliver the highest business value from the organization’s information and computing infrastructure.

Path forward

The ability to unlock new value from data in the cloud can enhance mission effectiveness — and yet, many executives believe their organizations are not ready to leverage the insights.

However, all that is needed to bridge the data analysis gap is an acknowledgement of the interplay of cloud strategy, cloud infrastructure and cloud analytics — in essence, adopt the Cloud Analytics Reference Architecture.

By applying the Reference Architecture, organizations can finally make all data available and accessible, and use advanced analytics to draw new insights that drive business success. The blend of technology, machine-based analytics and human-powered analysis will help organizations overcome hurdles posed by today’s IT systems unable to handle the volume, variety and velocity of our data-rich economy.

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Submitted by Booz Allen Hamilton

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