SAN FRANCISCO: Many brands still rely on descriptive analytics, and are thus missing out on the valuable insights that can be extracted from its predictive and prescriptive counterparts.

Dr Michael Wu, chief scientist at social software company Lithium Technologies, argued in Admap magazine that marketers must overcome certain "myths" regarding big data.

The main misapprehensions at present involve the idea that data and information are the same, and that all information can provide insights. (For more, including the importance of data visualisation, read the exclusive Admap article: Smarter data.)

"While big data technologies provide the infrastructure for capturing, storing and processing unprecedented amounts of data, they are only enablers," said Wu.

"What businesses really need is information that helps them make better decisions, and insight that gives them the competitive edge."

Today, most organisations are able to access "descriptive" information, which summarises past data that has been collected.

Such a fact extends to real-time data, too, as even this up-to-the-minute material yields insights into events that have already occurred.

"Currently, more than 80% of business analytics are descriptive. When it comes to social analytics, the percentage is even higher - approximately 90%," Wu said.

A second form of analytics is "predictive", and relies on the available data to make inferences about data which cannot be gathered, or has not been gathered to date.

The third primary type of analytics is "prescriptive", and uses data and information to prescribe actions that can help achieve a desired outcome.

"These analytics are all useful for the extraction of information and insight from big data and no one is more important than another," said Wu.

"However, it does take some analytics maturity and data savviness to move from descriptive towards predictive and prescriptive analytics."

Data sourced from Admap