Analytics is the top technology priority for CIOs and CFOs, according to Gartner; Nucleus Research recently released a report showing that organisations get a 10 to one return on analytics investment; IDC has increased growth forecasts for the analytics market.

Analytics is essential in today’s big data age, and the only way to achieve the kinds of business insights that are essential to ensuring a competitive advantage.

Enterprises are awash with ever-growing data of all types, easily amassing terabytes – even petabytes – of information. However, big data is more than simply a matter of volume; it is an opportunity to find business insights and get “big answers”, says Gerald Naidoo, VCEO of Logikal Consulting.

“Ninety percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. Your infrastructure must support, secure and provide efficient access to big data – without adding complexity. For many organisations, data is dispersed throughout the business in fragmented systems. Existing systems struggle to manage the complexity of new data sources, such as streaming data and video content.

“Deploying an information and big data strategy that flows directly from your business strategy can help you optimise outcomes, and integrating data throughout the business can allow you to uncover the insights that can help create competitive advantage,” he says.

Previously, there was no practical way to harvest the opportunities offered by the information amassed by organisations, but today’s technology allows companies to search, assess and extract meaning from large volumes of data found in e-mails, documents, social networking feeds, chat logs and many other sources.

This enables companies to create new products and services that could only exist because of today’s analytic power, and to embed realtime decisions in business processes.

“Many companies are going beyond merely improving their existing capabilities, but are using analytics in new ways. Instead of analytics being something that is used to monitor and eventually improve a business process, analytics is opening the door to a world of possibilities,” Naidoo says.

“The data isn’t important in itself, it’s the results that count. People embarking on analytics projects aren’t looking for a solution to the big data problem. They want answers that will allow them to advance their businesses.”

Big data is any type of data – structured and unstructured data such as text, sensor data, audio, video, click streams, log files and more. New insights are found when analysing these data types together.

“Analytics technologies provide an opportunity to access massive amounts of a greater variety of data, faster, and more flexibly. A typical analytics project is all about data management, but while that is important, business leaders should not lose track of the fact that the project is being implemented in order to provide actionable insights.

“The process of storing, managing, protecting and optimising the data isn’t the core of the project. Yes, it has to be done, but the ultimate goal is a timely answer to provide competitive advantage. Focussing on the data itself won’t get that done. Information business leaders can actually use will,” Naidoo concludes.