During a particularly hectic time in my career, a mentor of mine gave me a very sound piece of advice: “Where there is chaos, there is opportunity!” That line resonates as a reminder that when things seem overwhelming, there is generally an opportunity waiting to be capitalized on. This could be realized by landing a strategic vision amidst a competitive landscape, making a wise investment in a volatile market, or by making sense of the mountains of customer data being accumulated every second of every day.

Big Data quote

At any moment there are huge amounts of data being generated by devices, blogs, social feeds, mobile applications, sensors, and more! The chaos for many businesses comes from the fact that nearly all of this data is unstructured, unscrubbed and non-relational. Big Data is the collection of data sets so large and complex that they cannot easily be managed by traditional data warehouse technologies. It offers an immense opportunity for businesses to engage proactively with outside data in near real time to enhance, optimize, and move the business forward in ways that were previously impossible.

To keep up with this momentum, here are the top trends for Big Data you need to know about:

Big Data trends

1. Big Data analytics will drive strong customer engagement.

Big Data enables predictive and prescriptive analytics for your business:

  • Predictive analytics uses statistical and forecasting techniques to understand future trends. It could be a trends forecast related to customer behavior, purchasing patterns, sales volume, etc.
  • Prescriptive analytics utilizes simulation algorithms to provide guidance on what should we do with that future trends data. As an example, a business can plan future inventory and related supply chain logistics with the prescriptive analytics insights.

This analysis of complex data and future insights will help businesses understand customer needs better and subsequently build stronger relationships. Let’s take the example of Hy-Vee Supermarkets, a Microsoft Azure customer—they were able to boost data query performance by 100 times, and get critical business data to analysts faster for effective and timely decision making.

According to Hy-Vee’s Assistant VP of Data Warehousing, Tom Settle, previously the organization’s analysts were working with data that was two weeks old, making it difficult to react to trends in a timely matter. With Azure, the analysts now are working with “yesterday’s sales data,” says Tom, allowing them to analyze sales and adjust inventory volumes accordingly—which is extremely useful in the middle of a sales promotion!

2. Big Data security will be top of mind.

This year, massive increases in the volume of Big Data will force organizations to confront more security challenges than ever before.

Norse, a U.S.-based computer security firm, released a real-time cyberattack map that illustrates ongoing cyberattacks around the world. The map showed that in one hour alone, the US was attacked more than five thousand times. The cost of those attacks is massive! Companies lost an astounding $375 to $575 billion in 2015 on “hack attacks,” according to leading security company McAfee.

Businesses must discover, classify, and encrypt sensitive data, as well as implement a strict access control policy, deploy a data security platform, and monitor security analytics in real time.

That is, as they say, a “tall order.” But we’ve got them covered. Be sure to talk to your customers about built-in threat protection on PCs and devices with Windows Defender. Additionally, help them detect and get alerts about security breaches with Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) as part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

3. Location + Big Data insights will drive mobile sales and marketing.

Mobile beacons are going mainstream and becoming more popular among retailers for delivering real-time, targeted marketing promotions and offers to users based on location and their movements in the retail environment. Combining the mobile beacon technology with real time Big Data insights can be a very powerful sales and marketing solution.

Retailers are already examining using beacon-triggered notifications to send messages to customers’ mobile devices while they are shopping. These companies have access to a tremendous amount of valuable data from their consumers based upon their shopping experience habits and can utilize that to provide customers with targeted offers for convenient purchase. They can also use this information to develop innovative pricing strategies, digital marketing campaigns, and customer loyalty.

4. Machine learning gets smarter.

Data can hold secrets, especially if you have lots of it.

Machine learning examines large amounts of data, looking for patterns; then it generates code that lets you recognize those patterns in new data. Your applications can use this generated code to make better predictions. In other words, machine learning can help you create smarter applications. The more data, the more effective the learning, which is why machine learning and Big Data are intricately tied together.

Businesses will be able to access future predictive trends, and machine learning will be a property of every predictive application, enabling these smart insights. Machine Learning from Azure, a fully managed cloud service that enables you to easily build, deploy, and share predictive analytics solutions, is a great place to start.

The benefits of machine learning aren’t limited to insights about customers; we can even get insights that improve the places we live and work. A recent case study from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) details how the University wanted to improve building management and energy efficiency. CMU implemented the PI System from Microsoft Global ISV partner OSIsoft based on Power BI for Office 365 and the Windows Azure platform. CMU reduced building energy consumption by 30 percent and gained better operational insight in the process.

The above trends bring up a host of opportunities for organizations to talk to their customers about growing efficiently and safeguarding their critical data in the process.

Download the Safeguard Your Business pitch deck and the Grow Efficiently pitch deck to get the conversation started, and then learn more about all the ModernBiz solutions and how to market them to customers by visiting Microsoft’s ModernBiz page!

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