By Carlos Soto, Enaxis Consulting

I once heard a CEO remark “the future of everything is data.” This seems particularly true in oil and gas, where digital oil fields are comprised of a comprehensive list of transformative technologies. In orchestration these technologies can deliver increased productivity regardless of your sector. The key to their orchestration is data—Big Data to be more specific.

Big Data remains one of the most disruptive and elusive competitive advantages that a company can achieve. But what exactly is Big Data? What characteristics constitute an effective Big Data platform? Big Data is a difficult term to grasp. Everyone seems to have their own definition for the term. The most common use of the word is as a synonym for advanced data analytics. In reality, Big Data is the process of producing actionable results and learnings from unimaginable sizes of data.

The confusion often comes in understanding all the moving parts associated with the delivery of Big Data. Many people often believe that Big Data is a tool, or software, or hardware of some sort. In fact Big Data is comprised of several IT concepts and tools, spanning from strategic planning and advanced mathematical analysis, to collaborative human interaction and reporting, to the technologies that actually aggregate the data and help you compile the queries.

When properly implemented and used, Big Data gives companies the power to find value in data that otherwise would yield few results. In oil and gas this could mean anything from finding new reserves of gas, to maximizing refining efficiencies, to improving operational integrity. Despite all its capabilities, Big Data can be ineffective if missing one of the following three characteristics:

Consolidated: Since Big Data has so many moving parts, you need a solution that incorporates every component of Big Data. In the back-end you need a good data warehouse. In the front-end you need robust reporting, and in the middle you need the computational power. Within the gaps you need to ability to share the data easily, produce queries, and the capability to adjust your technology as your business and new technology trends emerge.

Compatible: Proprietary software at any step of this process is dangerous. Big Data is an orchestration of several moving parts, some of which you may want compatible with open systems like Hadoop and Appache. One of the big moves Microsoft has made in Big Data, for example, has been to provide Excel with the ability to connect to Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) or Hadoop cluster using Open Database Connectivity (ODBC). Excel can also interface with Appache Hive, a data warehouse infrastructure built-on Hadoop that provides data query and analysis.

Accessible: Big Data is complex. Don’t make it harder by implementing solutions that require climbing a huge learning curve to use. This is especially important in the reporting and analytics sections. In the end, what’s the point of using Big Data if your data’s obsolete by the time you’re able to generate reports?

Big Data can provide benefits to your organization through ensuring that you have as much information as possible before making important business decisions. The wealth of data available through Big Data also enables marketing strategies to be improved and more accurately targeted. If done correctly Big Data can even help you see the future. The key is implementing a solution that has all the necessary components, including accessibility.

This blogpost originally appeared on Enaxis Consulting’s website.