Big data is an ambiguous buzzword that means different things to different people. At its core, it's primarily a broad term for datasets so large traditional data processing can't handle them. Big data is often an obsession for both the media and entrepreneurs, with billions of dollars being poured into software development on a yearly basis. In this blog post I discuss how big data is helping change the unified communications landscape.
Big Data's Evolution Due to Cloud Services
Big data has been around since before concepts like the cloud existed. This meant a significant amount of on-premises computing power was necessary in the past to achieve most goals. The idea of big data was ahead of its time in many ways, and new capabilities are now possible thanks to the advent of cloud services.
The ability to shift workloads into the cloud is one of the largest changes in big data we've witnessed over the last few years. With massively scalable processing power available in the cloud, big data has largely moved from on-premise workloads to cloud workloads. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure Cloud both have big data engines able to analyze large amounts of data and provide relevant results.
Small Businesses, Big Data
Thanks to the cost efficiency and accessibility of cloud services, small businesses that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the required processing power can now get nearly immediate results from streams of information sent to the cloud.
When I made a visit to Microsoft's local offices here in Denver, they spoke about how a small flower shop had the ability to send usage information over the Microsoft Azure Cloud for analytics. Customer demographics and buying habits were streamed into the cloud with almost a single click. From there, further analysis was done to identify customers who were unlikely to come back for repeat business. A targeted marketing campaign was developed, which was shown to move those customers in to the 'likely to purchase' bracket.
Applying Big Data to Unified Communications
Specific subsets of big data such as demographics can be utilized to gain a complete understanding of communications within an organization. The analysis of calls made within the environment will create a map of internal collaboration, while external calls will show the relationships with external partners and vendors.
The same concepts that apply to small businesses also translate into effective strategies for unified communications management. When you're investigating the adoption and rollout of new capabilities, you can gain an understanding of who is using them and what strategies can be used to increase that utilization.
Big data can also be leveraged to find a needle in a haystack during troubleshooting, whether it's pinpointing a single network device or even a type of headset. Without the ability to capture, store, and analyze massive amounts of data, the time required to find the root cause would make such a task impossible.
For example, imagine a situation where a large organization is encountering sporadic issues. One location is experiencing poor voice quality, while another is experiencing frequent dropped calls. There is no issue that could be isolated to a specific area, user, or technology. If you were to leverage the power of big data, mass scalability, and data collection in this scenario, you'd be able to correlate information to highlight the common thread.
From a broad scope, the vision of big data can be applied to unified communications in order to become more operationally efficient. We can consider ways to leverage the concepts that big data brings to the table to eradicate a wide array of problems. As a result, it's possible to ensure that communication and collaboration are completed successfully.
Of course, it's possible to rely on big data too much—if you were to remove the human aspect from the equation and expect analytics to drive all of your actions, you'd be caught in a situation where too much control is relinquished. Instead, you still need a human element to strike the balance and make sure the recommendations are in fact the best course of action.