By Peter Millar
In a recent report, “Billions and billions: big data becomes a big deal,” our friends at Deloitte predict that in 2012, “Big Data” will likely experience accelerating growth and market penetration. By the end of this calendar year – according to the report – more than 90% of the Fortune 500 will have some sort of Big Data initiative underway and that this will fuel a $1-1.5 billion industry. (You can read and download the report here.)
An interesting footnote to the report is their definition of Big Data. “Big Data is a term applied to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time…”
Now when I read that definition, I think about ACL’s Audit Analytic software and its ability to analyse data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software (spreadsheets etc.,) to capture, manage and process data within a tolerable elapsed time. Hmm.
So Big Data is a new thing? A “…nascent IT space…?” Seems to me that as ACL turns 25yrs old, the space isn’t so nascent after all.
But then again, Big Data is generally understood to be management’s use of data analysis to gain insights into business performance, not Audit’s. So in that context, it is a new thing. I fully endorse management’s use of lots and lots of data to better understand what is going on in the business.
However, as we audit analytics types know, data quality is crucial. Poor data equals poor results, which in turn can lead to poor conclusions and/or decisions being made. I wrote about this in BusinessFinance Mag about a year ago, “Pay Serious Attention to Data Quality”. A year and a bit prior to that, I blogged about the perils of assuming that my data was “good” (link here.) So with that in mind, I was disappointed to see no mention of data quality or data governance in the Deloitte report.
Are your organizations engaged in a Big Data initiative and if so, is this on your risk radar? Are you thinking about the strategic and operational risks that arise from management making decisions based on poor data?
Having the right technology is one thing. Understanding the risks and implications around using technology is another. Auditors who use ACL know what to do and how to safely conduct data analysis. Assurance services around Big Data may very well be a Big Deal in your audit plans going forward. I’d consider that being serious value-add and highly relevant to your organization.
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