With the explosion of internet based communications and cloud-computing, the plethora of messages and information reaching us has increased significantly.

Our one-to-one modes of communication alone have necessitated time to basically sort through what is relevant at the time, organize it and act on it.

The same is true for BIG DATA used for business purposes.

The wealth of data available on market trends and consumer behaviour for example can be extensive for any industry. Big Data can offer important competitive information.

The real skill comes in sorting through it, organizing it so that decisions can be made on what to act on and when.

This was the topic of a public Webinar on October 1, 2015 presented by the Stanford Centre for Professional Development, Stanford CA. Carl Spetzler, CEO and Program Director explained that it is estimated that the volume of Big Data which is globally available across industries and sectors is expected to grow from 4.4 zetabytes in 2013 to 44 zetabytes in 2020! (a zetabyte being the equivalent of 10 to the power of 15 megabytes).

The number is close to incomprehensible.

Although the question remains, what is relevant?

It’s imperative to know the answer; because data-overload not only wastes time but also adds costs in terms of purchasing unnecessary data.

Once decisions are made as to where to focus data-analysis, the next question should be, what can be done with the data?

Good sources of past trends can fairly accurately predict near-term future business and market trends. However, the further the timeline, the greater number of variables can change predictions quite dramatically.

For example, drug C has been on the market for one year and it’s time to forecast. Market trends already exist for this product. As well, drugs A and B have been on the market longer having been launched in class prior. It’s safe to project the following 1-year.

Now consider drug C but 5 years prior with drugs A and B still not on the market. The variables can be much greater. What is the total market potential in a new market? Where can you find an estimate for market potential?

What if drug B presents weak data at a clinical meeting or worse their clinical trials program is halted? What impact does it have on market projections? More importantly in some markets such as Canada, what is the reimbursement environment for new medicines? Is that expected to change over time?

With the recent federal election in Canada, a different winning political party may have impact further cost containment measures in order to limit healthcare expenditure on drugs. This would have a negative impact on revenues projected over the next 5 years.

As quoted in the Webinar presentation by Jim Matheson, co-founder, chariman and CFO of SmartOrg , “Human experts are needed to translate both insights and analytic results from Big Data to the specific strategic decisions at hand”. The human translator.

Regardless of the size or nature of the business, experts like this are necessary to provide actionable insights and direction.