Getting past the big data hype trap

Among the biggest trends that the IT industry has been hyping up over recent years, few have promised the same range of potential as big data. Vendors and early adopters have been keen to extol the virtues of the technology and this is leading to a rush of interest as companies across all sizes and industries are keen to find out for themselves what the technology can do.

But could this wave of excitement lead to disappointment? It may well be the case that if companies jump into the ocean of information available to them without planning ahead or testing the waters first, they might find themselves overwhelmed by the complexities of the technologies. This can lead to projects failing and doubts emerging about whether the technology is really for them.

This may be one reason why Gartner has recently named big data as one of the key technologies poised to enter the next phase of its 'hype cycle'. This charts the progress of new technologies through a series of common steps that many go through – from the first sparks of innovation, through hype and disillusionment to eventually acceptance into the mainstream.

Its 2014 hype cycle, released earlier this month, revealed big data has passed the peak of hype and is currently standing on the precipice of the 'trough of disillusionment' – that period in which businesses may frequently decide the results they get from the technology are not meeting expectations and deployments falter.

But this isn't necessarily a bad thing in the long-term. Gartner notes almost all technologies go through a similar cycle before they become widely accepted. Indeed, cloud computing – one of the last big technologies to receive a great deal of hype – is currently sitting right at the bottom of Gartner's trough, but the future looks bright for the technology, and Gartner predicts it is two to five years away from plateauing as an accepted mainstream solution.     

Vice-president and fellow at the analysis firm Hung LeHong said the concept of the 'digital business' is a central theme of this year's hype cycle. He added: "As enterprises embark on the journey to becoming digital businesses, they will leverage technologies that today are considered to be 'emerging'.

"Understanding where your enterprise is on this journey and where you need to go will not only determine the amount of change expected for your enterprise, but also map out which combination of technologies support your progression." 

The challenge for firms will be ensuring their own deployments do not fall into the disillusionment trap – which can often be caused by poor planning, limited understanding about how to get the best results from solutions or a lack of skilled personnel to manage big data deployments.

Therefore, firms that seek ongoing support and can create a strong, long-term relationship with a big data analytics provider may well stand better-placed to most the most of the technology and avoid many of the most common pitfalls that prevent initiatives from working as expected.