What Companies Need to Know About Big Data and Social Computing in Information Technology Management

Internet statistics estimate that 500 million tweets are produced per day. That translates to millions of conversations about a vast array of topics.  “Big data” is a term that has become more prominent as social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. continue to generate large data streams.  Consumers produce click stream data and complete transactions visiting corporate websites to make purchases, schedule appointments for services or typing reviews on Yelp, Amazon and Uber about an experience that they’ve had.  With a well-planned IS strategy, this data  can be analyzed to gain insight into their customers and make critical strategic decisions necessary to compete.  Here are a few things companies should know about “Big Data” and social media computing as a business strategy.

Understand that social media and social networking is more a concept than a platform.

One of the  biggest problems with companies adopting social media as part of their IT business strategy is that the concept of social media for many IT managers does not extend beyond Twitter and Facebook.  There are many platforms for which social media is beneficial to business.  Slack and Github build on crowd-sourcing by emulating project management, software development and agile methodologies; even though those platforms are not primarily used for social media.

As more engineering firms adopt open source solutions, agile and DevOps development companies are deciding to use code development repositories such as GitHub.  Microsoft has already adopted GitHub as part of its Visual Studio Team Foundation options for source control.  The power of GitHub is very evident as global communities of developers use it to make some of the most innovative software products in languages such as Python, Java, C#, Ruby, etc.  It’s has also become a viable social media platform for software engineers who frequently collaborate on sprints.  Companies are also turning to solutions such as Slack to build entire global teams of developers to collaborate of on projects and sprints.

Social media as an IT business strategy is about understanding its contextual design and how the user interacts with it.  Part of understanding the contextual design of social media includes identifying the actors (primary and secondary) for which the platform are based and how those users interact with it to build relationships and communities.

Context also extends to how a user interfaces with social media.  Take, for example, the device many currently have in their pockets.  Apply classifications of contextual scope to this device and determine all the ways users interact through a platform (tablet, smartphone, computer, etc).  

A method known as the 4-I’s framework¹ is a good model to understand the user interaction in the context of social media.  The method is typically utilized in classifying interactions with information systems as described above.  The 4-I’s include:

  • Inscriptive (inputs)
  • Informative (outputs)
  • Interactive (processing)
  • Isolated (stored data)

This framework is useful for looking at ways to interact as a user that can perform as well as the information exchanged within that platform.  Another method that is popular is the MVC model or Model-View-Controller model which is used in software analysis and engineering as an architectural platform for implementing user interfaces on computers through separation of layers of those systems.

Do not dismiss “Big Data” as a gimmick.

The term “Big Data” itself may seem oversold through marketing, but the production of large data sets is very real, very fast and very large – with new data set being produced every day through public and private portals.

Big data is described as data that has variety (video, text, images, unstructured and structured), volume (over a terabyte, scale of brand), velocity (constant production of data streams), and veracity (the data needs to be cleaned and managed) .

 Information has become more fluid and available to more people faster and easier. Although no company should drive business decisions by what happens on Twitter or Facebook (or on the Dow), the power of “Big Data” as a tool can help in  trending analysis, customer segmentation and insight into short to long term business decisions.  

With “Big Data” companies will be able to:

  • Respond more quickly to market by making faster decisions.
  • Make patterns more evident to make changes to processes and products.
  • Better realize innovations and products and services and bring those to market faster.
  • Build and manage new and current data streams.
  • Create a data analytics ecosystem.  Make analyzing and aggregating data a business process all employees to utilize.

For a “Big Data” strategy to be successful, companies must:

  • Create data lakes and systems where raw data can live prior to being transformed for the business intelligence and reporting.
  • Remove data silos where data exists but is only accessible to a few internal stakeholders.  
  • Create a data analytics ecosystem
  • Create hybrid cloud solutions and begin moving applications to the cloud.

Know what association and segmentation analysis are and how to use them to learn about your customers.

With data streams, most coming online every day, new analytical methods can be used to gain insight into what consumers need in products and services.  Two popular analytical methods include association analysis and segmentation analysis.  In my next blog, I will discuss how these methods give insights into customers to better predict how they shop and what campaign ads are more likely to be successful with consumers.

With the popularity of Map Reduce and Hadoop, the business world is seeing an increase in “Big Data” analytics based on click stream and social media data.  Large data sets which would have taken days to analyze can now be done in minutes.


As data has become more prominent within an organization, and the means of collecting because easier and more ubiquitous, new skills will be necessary in certain roles to take full advantage of this data to drive value.  The corporate culture will need to adhere more to a data culture, where there is a value quotient to it collecting, cleansing, aggregating and analyzing data sources and data repositories.  Business leaders must establish new models that take advantage of social media and big data assets.

Works Cited

  1. Pitt, Leyland; Berthon, Pierre; Robson, Karen.  Deciding When to Use Tablets for Business Applications.  MIS Quarterly Executive Volume 10 Number 3 September 2011.

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