Mr Hardie acknowledged that most Oracle customers have traditionally focussed on what goes on in their business by running analytics over their structured databases. “But there is a whole raft of other data that can be tapped. It’s not just what is going on in your business, but what’s not going on,” he said.
He said that by capturing unstructured, or semi structured information from social media or web-logs for example, it was possible to get more insights about issues such as why a sales campaign worked so much better in Brisbane than it did in Perth, and then use that information to inform future decision making.
Analysis about the impact of big data published by McKinsey & Co in 2011 suggested retailers could boost operating margins by 60 per cent by fully exploiting big data while the US healthcare sector could liberate $US300 million value each year by using big data to drive efficiency and quality. According to Mr Hardie in the current economic climate those are attractive prospects which are lifting interest in big data.
Like most traditional database companies Oracle is investing heavily in developing tools and skills to help customers capture and use big data. While there are many open source tools – Hadoop in particular - available to help organisations sift and sort big data, there is a shortage of specialist skills in this area, and by offering commercialised ready-to-use toolsets Oracle like many of its competitors is attempting to hold onto current customers and reduce the friction involved with kicking off a big data project.
And, instead of reworking the entire business analytics set-up that an organisation may have crafted, Mr Hardie said there was opportunity for organisations to “take nuggets on information” from big data and “align that alongside existing business intelligence systems,” to generate additional business insights.
“The challenge that a lot of organisations have is do they need to throw out everything from before and move to a world of big data?” Mr Hardie said Oracle’s big data appliance released in January was intended to “kickstart” big data projects by essentially finding the “nuggets” and analyse them in tandem with conventional business analytics which were based on more structured corporate data.
While he was not prepared to estimate how far advanced organisations were inn terms of their exploitation of big data he said that some organisations such as telecommunications companies and retailers were particularly advanced in terms of their embrace of the approach.