Too Big to IgnoreAccording to Phil Simon in his latest book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data, Big Data – done right – can yield superior information and insights into behaviours that can help us make more informed decisions. Simon cites numerous applications and potential applications of Big Data, including sports (think Moneyball), politics, car insurance, municipal road repair, and corporate recruiting and HR.

Why should communicators care about a book on Big Data? It could be argued that communicators cannot keep up with every single business trend, but I believe we need to pay attention to the major ones that will affect our work in the long run, such as social networking, mobile computing and now, Big Data. (Hey, I’ve even awarded it initial caps!)

Simon describes three dimensions of Big Data:

  • Volume – the increasing amount of a data
  • Variety – the increasing range of data types and sources
  • Velocity – the increasing speed of data

Right now, Big Data consists mostly of unstructured bits and bytes found in blog posts, reviews, tweets, podcasts, emails and other varied sources. As our ability to harness this mountain of information grows, more and more business decisions will be based on Big Data.

In your own organization, you’ve probably heard complaints about the “information deluge.” If so, Simon offers some advice:

“If, like most learned folks, you believe that information is a business asset, then by definition Big Data inheres potentially enormous value. If you believe that data is a problem to be minimized, good luck surviving.”

Strong words.

But the book doesn’t focus on warnings; the tone is positive. Simon shares examples, case studies and his own considerable insights to help make sense of a topic that could easily overwhelm us. For most of the book, I was impressed by the readability of the prose; Simon’s use of storytelling helps to humanize what could have been a daunting tome.

This is not a technical, how-to manual about Big Data. Rather, it’s an accessible book that can help to increase your comfort level with the topic and broaden your understanding of Big Data’s possibilities in your own organization.

Who should read this book? According to the author – and I think he’s right – this volume would appeal to CEOs, CIOs and other senior leaders who want to understand the fuss about Big Data; employees at consulting firms and software vendors who need to educate clients about Big Data; and academics who want to prepare students to enter the Big Data world. I would add to the list: Communicators who don’t want to appear clueless when senior leaders bring Big Data to the table.

Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data
by Phil Simon
John Wiley & Sons, 2013
231 pages
$50 in the United States, $60 in Canada

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.