William Shakespeare wrote that “What’s past is prologue.” Big data surely builds on our rich past of using data to understand our world, our customers, and ourselves. Now the world is flush and getting flusher in big data from cloud, mobile, and the Internet of things. What does it mean for enterprises? In a word: opportunity. Firms have taken to big data. Here are my four predictions for key enterprise big data themes in 2013:

  1. Firms will realize that “big data” means all of their data. Big data is the frontier of a firm’s ability to store, process, and access (SPA) all of the data it needs to operate effectively, make decisions, reduce risks, and create better customer experiences. The key word in the definition of big data is frontier. Many think that big data is only about data stored in Hadoop. Not true. Big data is not defined by how it is stored. It can and will continue to reside in all kinds of data architectures, including enterprise data warehouses, application databases, file systems, cloud storage, Hadoop, and others. By the way, some predict the end of the data warehouse — but that’s nonsense. If anything, all forms of data technology will evolve and be necessary to handle the frontier of big data. In 2013, all data is big data.
  2. The algorithm wars will begin. Big data is lazy when it just sits on a disk somewhere. Firms increasingly realize that it must use predictive and descriptive analytics to find nonobvious information to discover value in the data. Advanced analytics uses advanced statistical, data mining, and machine learning algorithms to dig deeper to find patterns that you can’t see using traditional BI tools, simple queries, or rules. Many of these algorithms have been around for years, but many firms will rediscover their power, combine them in new ways, and even initiate research efforts to find competitive new algorithms. Big data is the fuel. Algorithms are the engine to explore virgin data, seek out new meaning and models, and deliver more personalized, contextualized customer experiences. Look no further than Internet giants like Google that invest heavily in algorithms to power services such as Google Now. In 2013, CEOs will give their firms an imperative to to beef up their data science capabilities.
  3. Real-time architectures will swing to prominence. Firms that find predictive models in big data must put them to use. Firms will seek out streaming, event processing, and in-memory data technologies to provide real-time analytics and run predictive models. Mobile is a key driver, because hyperconnected consumers and employees will require architectures that can quickly process incoming data from all digital channels to make business decisions and deliver engaging customer experiences in real time. The result: In 2013, enterprise architects will step out of their ivory towers to once again focus on technology — real-time technology that is highly available, scalable, and performant.
  4. Naysayers will fall silent. Big data is not just a buzzword; it’s real. But it disrupts many who don’t see anything new in it or don’t see the tremendous opportunity firms have to harness it for competitive advantage. My prediction: Time magazine will name big data its 2013 person of the year.