Big Data Must Support Design of Data Driven Apps if it’s to fulfill its Promise

Big Data Must Support Design of Data Driven Apps if it’s to fulfill its Promise

Allen Bonde, VP of product marketing & innovation at embedded analytics leader Actuate, believes Big Data will only develop real meaning when we stop debating the technical issues and get down to designing data driven apps that optimize it.

Big Data today is more than a buzz word – it is a red thread that is hotwired through today’s strategic thinking across industries and businesses. But is it really useful, in reality?

There is no escaping it: Big Data will remain as an untested business model unless we start actually using data from multiple sources to produce intuitive, data driven apps that do what they say on the tin. With Big Data implemented correctly, these apps can provide value to a host of different users who will find them useful in their everyday business and personal lives.

This is an enormous mountain to climb. Until we climb it – or at least start to – we can forget seeing the real data driven apps –apps that analyst firms like IDC forecast as “the next big thing” to hit marketing (

So what is the issue, at heart? It is very simple: We need every day apps that can present huge amounts of data – melted down into gold nuggets – in a meaningful, appealing way like today’s personal consumer apps do.

Compelling apps are those that businesspeople actively want to use, both at work and in their personal lives. These customers also demand apps that respond to their changing needs – apps that know and use their location to add value, for example. Users get this from consumer apps – be they accessed on a smartphone or a smartwatch. Corporate customers, both inside and outside the company, want that same consumer experience, or the apps simply don’t get used.

“Data driven” is the endgame

This all begs the question – how do you turn large chunks of data into those gold nuggets, while maintaining the usefulness? The answer lies in changing our thinking — not Big Data anymore, but Small Data. To provide valuable insight, Big Data needs to be stored, analyzed and filtered. In essence, Big Data provides the raw material, but it has to be pared down to Small Data – the last mile of data – to make insights pop in your data driven apps.

The hurdle here is granularity. In order to deliver Small Data nuggets via innovative apps, developers need to dig into a mixed bag of historical, trend-based and real time data. Like real time data for targeting sales drivers such as daily deals to consumers, and admin duties such as inventory optimization. Historical and trend data provides the real gas to drive competitive intelligence, for instance.

The Kayak ( when-to-book app is a great example. It pulls together billions of data points at the back end from pricing and trend driven data, and manipulates all this Big Data into Small Data nuggets which, via a dashboard, provide the shopper with actionable purchasing guidance (“Buy” or “Wait”).

Embedding analytics is an essential approach

A large number of compelling information apps can be created by formulating Big Data into bite size, actionable pieces of Small Data. But to realize the real power of data driven customer apps, we need the right approach and tools.

From my experience as an analyst and researcher working with Small Data, I see a clear set of principles and embedded analytics tools taking shape that data driven app designers can use to create very appealing apps. At my company, Actuate, working with our 200-plus OEMs and millions of BIRT and BIRT iHub developers, we have established a very clear route forward.

  • Think like your customers – they are, after all, the ones using your apps, and the guidance you provide needs to meet their needs. Find out what they are.
  • Don’t forget the ‘last mile’ of Big Data –don’t focus on the bigger picture. Take into account how the right information can be delivered, and create your map from there.
  • Don’t ignore scale – you need to have the strength to launch data driven apps to possibly millions of users, and myriad types of devices, as the success of Internet of Things (IoT) thunders forward.
  • Remember Personal is the new interactive – Make this your mantra – data driven apps need to be customizable by every single user, even if they are be used by a multitude of different users.

So the good news is that there are ways to make Big Data a viable option for everyday tasks via intuitive, consumer style app design. Big Data doesn’t have to bury itself under its own hype, it just needs to be viewed from a more narrow, Small Data angle, which will allow you to think more strategically.

The author is vice president of product marketing & innovation at business reporting and analytics software specialist Actuate Corporation – the people behind BIRT, the new BIRT iHub F-Type™ freemium server, the Actuate CCM Suite, and BIRT Analytics™, a self-service predictive analytics solution for business analysts and marketers.


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