Limitations of Big Data Analytics

6 minute read
Updated On | Jun 3, 2024 10:13:10 AM
Publish On | Jun 3, 2024 8:11:16 AM
Maksym Lypivskyi
Head of Product Engineering

 

By now, you’ve probably heard of big data analytics, the process of drawing inferences from large sets of data. These inferences help identify hidden patterns, customer preferences, trends, and more.

To uncover these insights, big data analysts, often working for consulting agencies, use data mining, text mining, modeling, predictive analytics, and optimization. As of late, big data analytics has been touted as a panacea to cure all the woes of business. Big data is seen by many to be the key that unlocks the door to growth and success.

However, although big data analytics is a remarkable tool that can help with business decisions, it does have its limitations. Here are five limitations to the use of big data analytics.

What is big data?

Big data is the term given to data which is at high volume, high velocity and at a high level of variety. It generally means large and complex data sets that are too big for normal data processing software to manage, but which can unlock vital business insights if processed and analyzed to their fullest extent. The ultimate goal of big data analytics is to derive value from the data, despite the challenges associated with processing and analyzing such complex and often unstructured data. Big data applications frequently require real-time or near-real-time processing to support timely decision-making and streaming analytics."

Big Data Flow Diagram (1)

The limitations and solutions for big data analytics

More and more businesses are exploring the potential of big data, and bringing together as many different data sources as they can, from social media impressions and phone call logs to supply chain information and customer feedback. However, big data is not necessarily a catch-all solution, and a number of sectors are finding it a difficult proposition in practice. For example, many manufacturers are dealing with challenges in applying context to integrated data, put in place the infrastructure needed, and extend analytic capabilities to legacy devices.

These are the five biggest limitations affecting businesses exploring big data analytics right now - along with the good news that none of these challenges are insurmountable:

Icon - Prioritizing correlationsPrioritizing correlations

Data analysts use big data to tease out correlation: when one variable is linked to another. However, not all these correlations are substantial or meaningful. More specifically, just because 2 variables are correlated or linked doesn’t mean that a causative relationship exists between them (i.e.," correlation does not imply causation”). For instance, between 2000 and 2009, the number of divorces in the U.S. state of Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine both similarly decreased. However, margarine and divorce have little to do with each other. 

When big data makes these irrelevant correlations, it generates the risk of making inaccurate conclusions, that in a worst-case scenario could be biased or discriminatory.

To mitigate this risk, data analysts should carefully consider the context, potential confounding variables, and underlying causal mechanisms when interpreting correlations. Combining domain expertise with statistical techniques can help distinguish meaningful relationships from mere coincidences. Additionally, clearly communicating the limitations and uncertainties of the findings is crucial to prevent misinterpretation or misuse of the insights derived from big data.

Solution: discover the worthwhile correlations

Solution_ discover the worthwhile correlations - Option 2

Icon---Security-risks-and-concernsSecurity risks and concerns

As with many technological endeavors, big data analytics is prone to data breach. Any data that falls into the wrong hands could be used by competitors to grab market share, allow cybercriminals to access sensitive data or financial account details, or enable them to steal the identity of users, employees or customers.

The volume of the data involved means that a successful breach can cause a huge amount of operational, legal, financial and reputational damage. And not only is protecting all that data difficult, it can also be an expensive endeavor because of the sheer scale of the information that needs protecting.

Solution: encryption is key

Solution_ encryption is key - Option 2

Icon---Restrictions-with-transferabilityRestrictions with transferability

Data collection and analysis can’t always be easily transferred to other domains or organizations, due to differences in data formats, semantics or structures. This can limit the value that big data can offer, as it becomes more difficult to share insights across departments or businesses.

Because much of the data you need analyzed lies behind a firewall or on a private cloud, it takes technical know-how to efficiently get this data to an analytics team. That technical expertise is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to attract and maintain, in a climate where the global IT skills gap is continuing to widen. Furthermore, it may be difficult to consistently transfer data to specialists for repeat analysis.

Solution: choose the right tools and storage

Solution_ choose the right tools and storage - Option 2

Icon - Data collectionInconsistency and data collection

Sometimes the tools we use to gather big data sets are imprecise. For example, Google is famous for its tweaks and updates that change the search experience in countless ways; the results of a search on one day will likely be different from those on another day. If you were using Google search to generate data sets, and these data sets changed often, then the correlations you derive would change, too.

The inconsistency can also be through less technical means, and could simply be down to variations in data collection methods, measurements techniques, or just the general quality of the data itself. Dealing with these issues is vital for preventing biases or inaccuracies in any results generated by artificial intelligence tools.

Solution: implement strict processes

Solution_ implement strict processes - Option 2

Icon - Working with expert partnersLack of internal knowledge

Ultimately, you need to know how to use big data to your advantage in order for it to be useful. The use of big data analytics is akin to using any other complex and powerful tool. For instance, an electron microscope is a powerful tool, too, but it’s useless if you know little about how it works. 

But as we mentioned earlier on, accessing these skills can be extremely expensive - if indeed an organization is able to get hold of them at all. The result of big data processes based on limited expertise can be a lack of utilization of data assets, inaccurate results, and ultimately poor business decision-making.

Conclusion:

In today's data-driven world, big data analytics has emerged as a powerful tool for businesses to gain valuable insights, make informed decisions, and drive growth. However, as with any complex technology, big data analytics comes with its own set of limitations and challenges.

From prioritizing meaningful correlations and mitigating security risks to ensuring data consistency and building internal knowledge, businesses must navigate these hurdles to fully harness the potential of big data. By understanding these limitations and implementing appropriate solutions, such as leveraging domain expertise, employing robust security measures, adopting modern data integration tools, establishing strict data governance processes, and seeking external expertise when needed, organizations can overcome these challenges and unlock the true value of their data assets.

As the volume, variety, and velocity of data continue to grow, it is crucial for businesses to approach big data analytics with a strategic and informed mindset. By combining the right tools, processes, and expertise, organizations can turn big data into a competitive advantage, driving innovation, improving customer experiences, and achieving sustainable growth in an increasingly data-centric landscape.

Solution: seek expertise

Solution_ seek expertise - Option 2

 

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