By Shekhar Iyer, Global Vice President, Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics, SAP   (@BIShekhar)

dreamstime_xs_33943683-150x150In business, as in life, the only constant is change. It’s not the constancy of change that I find challenging – it’s how exponentially quickly it seems to be happening in today’s world. A world, by the way, where we now use words like ‘yottabytes’ and ‘brontobytes’ to quantify information. Where there are more mobile devices than people. And where data doubles every 18 months.

It’s all those people and devices and data that have given rise to the concept Big Data. But what does Big Data really mean to your business? Well, it can mean a lot – if you understand what it is and how you can use it.

Big Data, Big Buzz, Big Misconceptions

There’s no doubt that Big Data is getting a lot of press. That’s a good thing because it gets businesses thinking about what how Big Data might be relevant to their strategy and goals. But hype often breeds misconceptions that can leave you feeling confused at best, if not downright frustrated.

Let’s debunk three common myths about Big Data:

Myth #1: “Big Data is all about volume. It’s only useful for big companies.”

Yes, volume is a factor. But it’s only one dimension. SAP, Gartner, and IDC agree that two other dimensions are just as important: variety and velocity. According to a Gartner survey, among the primary data issues driving companies to consider Big Data are the need to analyze data from diverse sources, streaming data, and new data types.

Consider the benefits European telecom company TPSA Poland saw when it harnessed the power of Big Data. Using social network analytics, TPSA was able to build social networks and communities from 2.6 billion voice call records in one hour. The company improved churn model accuracy by 50 percent by using social community attributes – a move that could generate 4.8M€ of yearly additional revenue.

The key? It’s all about finding the right mix of technologies for your needs, so you can get cost-effective, meaningful insights and manage all the data that can impact your business.

Myth #2: “Big Data is all about getting the best data scientists.”

You don’t need to be Einstein to master Big Data. In fact, among those using predictive analytics solutions from SAP, less than one-tenth of one percent are data scientists. The vast majority – 97 percent – are business users and LOBs.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a visual learner?” That’s one idea behind powerful visualization features that drive analytics solutions. Big Data can be overwhelming , and it’s only useful if everyone in the business can consume it easily and understand what it means. Visualization could be central to broader adoption.

Myth #3: “Big Data is a cool fad, but it’s got no business benefit.”

When it comes to the big benefits of Big Data, the proof is in the pudding. Just ask Barclays. The financial services firm applied the power of Big Data to optimize its campaigns. The company boosted its response rates by 160 percent, and saw a 35 percent increase in sales and profits. When AAA applied analytics to its campaigns, it increased customer retention and products per household, and increased overall customer lifetime value. The company measured ROI at 14 percent.

When you hear results like that, it’s hard to argue that there’s no business benefit to Big Data. But it’s not enough to simply believe in Big Data – you have to do something with it. The best advice? Acquire, analyze, and act to get real business impact.