Many marketers and data analysts hear the term "Big Data" at least once per day. They discuss the subject ad nauseum, but when it comes down to understanding the incoming information, most companies are ill equipped to manage the burgeoning flow of customer data. While technologies and techniques offer ample opportunity to extract insight quickly and accurately, most have yet to implement the necessary analytics tools needed to take Big Data to the next level.

Based on recent research, Neolane estimates that 2.7 zettabytes of data were generated in 2012 alone. (That's 2.7 bytes followed by 21 zeros, just to clarify.) Factor in the 354 billion corporate emails, 400 million tweets, and one billion Facebook posts sent worldwide each day, and you will see that the influx of data won't be subsiding any time soon. 

Neolane recently partnered with The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to explore how mid-level and executive-level marketers across industries are juggling all the incoming data. The study, which surveyed more than 250 respondents, reveals that many are struggling to manage this influx of information and that the majority must change their methods if they hope to convert customer data into actionable insight. The following statistics provide a small peek into the overwhelming Big Data conundrum:

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  • Sixty percent of respondents do not currently have or are unsure if their company has a specific strategy in place for handling Big Data challenges.
  • More than 50 percent of those surveyed say they are augmenting their marketing team and investing in new technologies.
  • Eighty-one percent of those polled feel they are either somewhat or not very prepared when it comes to the new rules and regulations of marketing data governance.
  • However, marketers are embracing SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) marketing strategies in an effort to generate new data. While 62 percent of marketers leverage social media profile data, 62 percent are also making the most of social media transactions, such as wall posts, shares, and comments.
  • Twenty-three percent of those surveyed currently use location-based data generated from mobile campaigns.
  • To handle the increased data, 50 percent of marketing departments are considering employing data scientists to handle the social and mobile channel information flow.

The IBM Institute for Business Value also conducted its own Big Data study to examine how businesses are developing alongside the information explosion. Partnered with the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, the "2012 Big Data @ Work" survey polled 1,144 business and IT professionals in 95 countries to assess how companies across the globe are growing their Big Data efforts. The following statistics provide added insight into trends within the space: 

  • Most businesses are still in the early stages of Big Data planning and development, with 24 percent focused on understanding the concepts, and 47 percent defining a roadmap.
  • Twenty-right percent of those polled are members of leading-edge organizations that are implementing Big Data pilots, proofs of concepts, or have begun implementing their solutions at scale.

Key takeaway: By polling both business and IT professionals, IBM and Oxford highlight the underlying principle at the heart of Big Data success: Businesses must dismantle silos and allow information to flow across the organization so each department can take advantage of all available data. Professionals throughout the organization must work together in order to facilitate the transition to enterprisewide strategies that will further customer-centric objectives. According to IBM, the most effective Big Data solutions implemented thus far have identified business requirements first, and then tailored the infrastructure, data sources, and analytics to bolster business opportunity, for businesses do not succeed departmentally, but holistically.