10 Surprising Big Data Statistics

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You’ve no doubt heard the term “big data.” It gets thrown about as often as dodgeballs in a third grade PE class.

But what does that term actually mean? How many companies are actually using big data, or the business intelligence software that turns that data into insights? What’s the impact of all that data companies and governments are collecting?

Let’s get beyond the buzzword and actually check out the “data” about these ten surprising big data statistics.

10 surprising big data statistics

1. Six million developers worldwide are currently working on big data and advanced analytics.

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That’s a little more than the populations of L.A. and Houston, combined. Those six million are also roughly a third of all developers on earth. The takeaway? Big data’s getting bigger.

2. Spending on big data technology will reach $57 billion this year.

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For reference, the Montreal Canadiens are worth about one billion dollars—even without P.K. Subban.

3. The worldwide business intelligence and analytics market will be worth $18.3 billion by the end of 2017.

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So, all that data being collected is clearly of interest to people. As for what $18.3 billion can get you elsewhere in the world: The Chicago Cubs cost (only?) one billion dollars; same for a major collection of Cubist art donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

4. 72% of business employees say they’d “share sensitive, confidential, or regulated company information,” according to a Dell survey.

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This sobering statistic is one (of many) reasons why your company should have a data governance program in place—and well publicized. In many cases, sensitive data is lost as a result of carelessness, rather than malice.

5. 50% of BI software queries will be over search features, natural language processing, or voice recognition by 2020.

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What’s natural language processing? It’s when a computer can understand plain English, as opposed to a programming language. In other words, it’s when a computer speaks your language. NLP is a big driver in making business intelligence software accessible to non-experts and citizen data scientists.

6. The number of citizen data scientists will grow at five times the rate of traditional data scientists by 2020.

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What are citizen data scientists? They’re non-statisticians who do the work of statisticians. The term was coined by Gartner, so here’s the IT advisory firm’s formal definition: “a person who creates or generates models that leverage predictive or prescriptive analytics, but whose primary job function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics.”

I’ve included this statistic because of the importance citizen data scientists will have in the coming years. There’s going to be a shortage of data scientists, so people who do their work are going to be highly valuable.

7. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second, for every person on earth.

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For some perspective, 1.7 megabytes is about the size of a two-minute MP3. And while you may not need thousands of recordings of “Fell in Love With a Girl” or “Not Fade Away,” you do need to know that a bewildering amount data is being created and collected every day.

8. Every hour, Wal-Mart customers’ transactions provide the company with about 2.5 petabytes of data.

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When people talk about big data, this is what they have in mind. The sort of data Wal-Mart collects is used to determine valuable keywords for online retail, target marketing campaigns, and decide which products to sell, and which to lose.

9. About three out of five people in leadership roles say a failure to get on board with big data could lead to obsolescence.

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10. Though 85% of companies are trying to be data-driven, only 37% of that number say they’ve been successful.

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Becoming data-driven is not an easy transition. Reorganizing your decision-making around data, not to mention your everyday routines, requires a shift in your thinking.

View it as akin to dieting: If you’re not used to counting steps, checking nutritional information, and tracking calories, all the numbers may annoy you initially. But, like dieting, you’ll like the results if you stick to the plan.

If you’re looking for examples, check out these pieces about data-driven companies and projects from Forbes.

Other big data statistics

Seen any big data statistics that grabbed your attention? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for Business Intelligence software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Business Intelligence software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.


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