We’ve hit a milestone with access to important data — but there’s still one major problem
IP addresses are flashed on a screen at the Webroot booth during the RSA Conference on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in San Francisco. Threat analysts, security vendors and corporate IT administrators have gathered here to talk about malicious software, spear-phishing and other attacks that can steal money or secrets from companies and consumers. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Finding information in data is tricky, a new survey says.

In the age of big data, we’ve hit a pretty big milestone. But now the trick is figuring out how to use all of the information out there and turning it into something we can take action on.

According to a new survey in Computing, IT professionals have a good handle on the first step of any data mining process: managing and integrating the raw data. That used to be the biggest hurdle, but now only 13 percent of those surveyed said it was an issue.

Now, they view the next two steps as more of the problem, with 48 percent saying that turning raw data into useful information is the trickiest and 39 percent saying it is deriving actionable insights from the info.

For the most part, businesses have dealt with the various steps in silos, with IT people dealing with the raw data and analysts taking it on later into the process. Many of those surveyed suggested a new approach.

“With big data, there’s always been too much data and not enough science, and it’s how to sift the wood from the trees. With the advent of analytics and visualization, it’s getting a lot better — but I still think the bottleneck is the volume of data against the question you are trying to answer … And the bottleneck is more about the skill sets than anything else,” said one of the survey takers, described as the head of research information and intelligence at a government department.

In our digital environment, some say data is the new currency, but at least one of those surveyed had a different idea.

“Data is the new raw material, and information is the new currency,” the surveyor said in the report.

Let’s hope people can figure out how to go from data to information a little quicker and easier. After all, what is the use of having all this information if we can’t figure out what to do with it?

Author placeholder image About the author:
Lilee Williams is a freelance journalist and scientific study junkie based in Georgia. Email her at
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