Big Data in Business
April 5, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

IT has arguably become the defining feature of the 21st century. Whether it be business, government, health, education and even religion, no facet of human life has been left untouched by this revolution. Information Technology has pushed for increased acquisition and processing of data in virtually every activity we undertake. Indeed, businesses and institutions all over the world are increasingly relying on data for better decision-making. Trends such as data analytics and data science are foraying into each and every modern organisation today.

While IT may be a relatively new phenomenon in human history (just about 50 years old), the concept of big data is as old as human civilisation. In ancient kingdoms such as Sumeria and Egypt, it was the need for record keeping in agriculture, warfare and administration that led to the invention of writing.

However, the modern-day need for data is driven by commerce. Businesses demand data not just for transactions but for production, accounting, manufacturing, supply chains etc. The stock market, for example, shows how data has been driving business, even way before the advent of Information Technology.

Data in The Evolution of The Stock Market

The early stock market was composed of handwritten sheets of paper with which investors traded with each other in quiet coffee shops. This was in sharp contrast to the high-octane environment that is characteristic of today’s trading floors. However, soon it was moved to dedicated rooms such as 11 Wall Street. The ticker-tape was then introduced to manage the exponential increase in stock trading in the mid-20th century. That was the first attempt to organise and disseminate stock prices to potential buyers and sellers. They were paper ribbons that contained information about stock prices communicated via telegraph. The ‘ticker’ printed the company name, stock price and the transaction volume. It was this careful method of gathering, organising and disseminating data that lay the groundwork for what would be the driving force for big business all over the world.

Modern day stock markets with digital ticker tapes displayed on large screens are today’s global companies’ manna for growth. This is where they get funding to expand and up the production which fuels our modern way of life.

How Data Drives Business Today

Big data is changing the way we do business in the 21st century. The advent of IT has made it possible for companies to amass data on virtually every operational sector. Smart businesses are using data to guide their decisions, in what is now known as the data-driven culture.

Perhaps the biggest example of this shift to data is what is termed as Industry 4.0. Also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 is a departure from conventional manufacturing towards data and automation. With the introduction of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) that makes interconnectivity possible and access to real-time data, manufacturing and business as a whole has been transformed.  On the factory floor, robots and people communicate for more efficient assembly lines. Meanwhile, in the supply chain, there is greater collaboration between suppliers, departments, products, vendors and consumers. This is not only boosting productivity, it is also improving the process and identifying opportunities for correction and growth.

With Big Data, businesses big and small are changing the way they operate and thus leveraging opportunities faster and better. While there may be a lot of room for improvement in how we acquire and use data, what is certain it is here to stay and pave the way to the future.


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