Funes el memorioso is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, which describes a young man named Ireneo Funes who, as a result of a horseback riding accident, has lost his ability to forget. Although Funes has a tremendous memory, he is so lost in the details of everything he knows that he is unable to convert the information into knowledge and unable, as a result, to achieve wisdom.
In Spanish, the word memorioso means “having a vast memory.” Without question, Big Data has a vast memory comprised of fast-moving large volumes of varying data seemingly providing details about everything your organization could ever want to know about our increasingly digitized and pixelated world. But what if Big Data is the Ireneo Funes of the Information Age?
What if Big Data el Memorioso is the not-so-short story in which your organization becomes so lost in the details of everything big data delivers that you’re unable to connect enough of the dots to convert the information into knowledge and unable, as a result, to achieve the wisdom necessary to satisfice specific business needs?
Adrian Bridgwater recently compared this challenge to “trying to balance a stack of papers on a moving walkway, in a breeze, without knowing the full length or speed of the walkway itself. If you want to extend the metaphor one step further — there are other passengers on our walkway and they could bump into us and/or add papers to our stack. Oh, did I mention that the pieces of paper might not even all be the same size, shape, or color — and some may have tattered edges and coffee stains?”
In other words, as Bridgwater went on to explain, “our information optimization goals will typically include the need to manage information and assess its quantitative and qualitative values. We will also need to analyze streams of both structured and unstructured data, the latter including video, emails, and other less ‘straight edged’ data.”
While examining some of the technology options that can assist with this challenge, Paul Muller recently remarked “whether it be structured, unstructured, big, small, real-time, or historical — data of all kinds are top-of-mind for business executives. It may already feel like you’re drowning in data, but it’s important to get to grips with the changing technology landscape to ensure you’re not drowning in an incoherent mess of information management architectures too.”
Edd Dumbill recently wrote an introduction to the big data landscape, which concluded that “big data is no panacea. You can find patterns and clues in your data, but then what?” As Dumbill recommends, you need to know where you want to go. You need to know what problem you want to solve, i.e., you need to pick a real business problem to guide your implementation.
Without this implementation guide, big data will have, as Borges said of Funes, “a certain stammering greatness,” but amount to, as William Shakespeare said in The Tragedy of Macbeth, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”