Does Clinical Data Qualify as “Big Data”?

Venu Mallarapu

I was at an Analyst conference last week where I met a couple of analysts (no pun intended :-) ) focused on Life Sciences who felt that “Big Data” is a tough sell in Life Sciences, except for Genomic Data. That made me think. I always associated “Big Data” with the size of the data sets running into Peta Bytes and Zetta Bytes. What I learned in my journey since then is that the characteristics of Big Data does not start and end with the Size.

This article on Mike 2.0 blog by Mr. Robert Hillard, a Deloitte Principal and an author, titled “It’s time for a new definition of big data” talks about why Big Data does not mean “datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools” as defined by Wikipedia. He goes on to illustrate three different ways that data could be be considered “Big Data”. For more, please read the blog.

One quality he explained that is of interest to me is “the number of independent data sources, each with the potential to interact”. Why is it of interest to me? I think Clinical Data, in the larger context of Research & Development, Commercialization and Post Marketing Surveillance definitely fits this definition. As explained in one of my previous posts title “Can Clinical Data Integration on the Cloud be a reality?“, I explain the diversity of clinical data in the R&D context. Now imagine including the other data sources like longitudinal data (EMR/EHR, Claims etc.), Social Media, Pharmacovigilance so on and so forth, the complexity increases exponentially. Initiatives like Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership (OMOP) have already proven that there is value in looking into data other than the data that is collected through the controlled clinical trial process. Same thing applies to some of the initiatives going on with various sponsors and other organizations in terms of making meaningful use of data from social media and other sources. You might be interested in my other post titled “Social Media, Literature Search, Sponsor Websites – A Safety Source Data Integration Approach” to learn more about such approaches that are being actively pursued by some sponsors.

All in all, I think that the complexities involved in making sense of disparate data sets from multiple sources and analyzing them to make meaningful analysis and ensure the risks of medicinal products outweigh the benefits will definitely qualify Clinical Data as “Big Data”. Having said that, do I think that organizations would be after this any time soon? My answer would be NO. Why? The industry is still in the process of warming up to the idea. Also, Life Sciences organizations being very conservative, specially when dealing with Clinical Data which is considered Intellectual Property as well as all the compliance and regulatory requirements that goes with the domain, it is going to be a long time before it is adopted. This article titled “How to Be Ready for Big Data” by Mr. Thor Olavsrud on website outlines the current readiness and roadmap for adoption by the industry in general.

The next couple of years will see evolution of tools and technology surrounding ”Big Data” and definitely help organizations evolve their strategies which in turn will result in the uptick in adoption.

As always your feedback and comments are welcome.


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Holding Out for an Information Governance Hero

Ina Felsheim

In talking to customers last week, they again reinforced that information governance success is still on the horizon for each of them—and these were companies that had a dedicated data governance organization in place for years! Here are some of the key barriers still affecting most customers I talk to, and some general guidance on how to overcome them.

Points for you, if you can identify some lyrics or the artist in my song choices—or if you can think of a better one!

Stayin’ Alive

They’re already very good at manually moving data and making it fit-for-use. As a consequence, the larger organization doesn’t buy in to the need to focus on information as a critical asset. The impact: the EIM group is continually focused on keeping the train on the tracks, unable to spend any time/resources on making sure that the destination is correct and fresh cargo is delivered.

Another consequence is that the company believes their information is good enough. And if it is, why do they need to own the quality and use of that information? Someone else has been taking care of it so far, so what’s the problem?

Guidance: This one is tricky, but here’s what some companies do:

  • Roll up the opportunity cost in a qualitative way, demonstrating both the level of manual work and the projects you’re unable to drive because you lack the bandwidth—as well as what can go wrong if information isn’t considered a core contributor to new strategies, like big data or social
  • Talk about exposure to risk and how people-dependent your current processes are (Let me know if this works for you!)

Holding Out for a Hero

Management that’s lived through an information crisis (delayed go-lives, incorrect compliance reporting, inability to ship product from a plant, unplanned machinery down-time) can be a powerful supporter of the information agenda. However, that management layer changes frequently. Because of this, there’s a continual re-education and justification process for the EIM investment.


  • Make sure you continually publish results in business-value terms—even when you’re not immediately being asked for this data
  • Stockpile your data quality tales of woe, and have them ready to support your metrics (notice the tie to data supported by a story)

All My Life I’m Searching for Something

As a result of all of the above tension, groups are focusing on one more magic metric; the idea being if they only had this one additional metric, people would see the value:

  • If we had one number that showed the value of information in each business process
  • If we could show the dollar value of each information asset, according to the business usage of that information
  • If we could show exactly how much time (and the cost of that time) we spend ensuring current levels of information quality

Guidance: Yes, we can always do a better job putting together business-centric metrics. Percentage of nulls on a field is never going to cut it. However, one more metric isn’t likely to turn around the conversation.

Check out the Made to Stick book for details, but the Heath brothers talk about using emotional stories to help sell your position. It’s a great read. The need for one more metric is highlighting more of an organizational culture problem, which requires a different solution. As my friend Herman says, “Hope isn’t a strategy.”

Is your organization experiencing these same challenges? How have you tackled them? What is your strategy for tackling them?

And have you identified the artists who covered the songs?

Ina L. Mutschelknaus is a solutions management director with SAP BusinessObjects’ enterprise information management products. She’s been with SAP BusinessObjects since 1997, and currently works on information governance and end-to-end use scenarios. She has managed data cleansing, matching, profiling and assessment, and user experience and brought these rich capabilities to master data management. She has also spoken at several conferences on these topics.
Ina Felsheim

Ina Felsheim

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18 Stats On The Mobile Market You Need To Know [Infographic]

Michael Brenner

I am a sucker for a great infographic just as much as the next guy or gal. My best post of 2012 so far (and by far) is 8 great marketing infographics to inspire you in 2012.

With more than 2,400 Retweets, 650 “pins,” 200 LinkedIn shares, 47 “likes,” 45 Google+ shares and 25 comments, I was truly astonished by the amount of support and interest.

So in the next week, I will share 2 additional infographics to help inspire your efforts, to focus on your customers and to drive better results in 2012.

We know that mobile advertising is hot and I have already provided 4 steps to mobile marketing success. But if you’re still not convinced or you haven’t established your mobile strategy, then this post is for you…

The original “8 great infographics” post included a mobile marketing chart that showed the size of the mobile market compared to other channels and in context of the average person’s use of mobile technology to access information.

This one goes a little further and provides 18 facts and stats on the state of the mobile market:

  • 4 billion mobile phones in use worldwide
  • 27% of those are smart phones
  • 75% are SMS-enabled
  • By 2014 the mobile internet will over take desktop internet users
  • One half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices
  • Mobile tags provide more product information than traditional bar codes
  • 86% of mobile internet users are using their device while watching TV
  • 29% of mobile users are open to scanning a mobile tag to get a coupon
  • Americans average 2.7 hours per day on their mobile device
  • That’s twice the amount of time spent eating
  • And that’s more than one-third of the time Americans send sleeping
  • 91% of mobile internet access is for socializing vs. 79% on desktops
  • Games, weather and maps/search are the largest search categories on mobile devices
  • Over one-third of Facebook’s 600+ Million user base uses Facebook mobile
  • 50% of Twitter’s 165 million users are accessing the site through Twitter mobile
  • 200 Million+ video views happen on a mobile device
  • 30% of smartphone owners access social networks from their mobile device
  • Women 35-54 are the most social-mobile active

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What To Do With Excess Cash; Share Buybacks Or Increased Dividends?

Richard Barrett

With piles of cash on their balance sheets, it’s no surprise that companies resort to share buybacks as a quick way of returning surplus cash to investors. They are a quick way to boost earnings per share in the short term and that will stand the executive board in good stead when they come to renegotiate their remuneration. I may be being cynical but perhaps that’s why they are so popular. Most investors seem to like them too. But if it all goes wrong and the share price subsequently drops again, those investors that chose not to sell will no doubt be annoyed that the company overpaid for its own stock and damaged the value of their own investment

So if share buybacks sometimes destroy value, do they need to be more tightly regulated?  After three years of research, a group of economists at universities in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and the Czech Republic think so. They are calling for “radical and immediate reform of the financial system”, suggesting that buybacks are “a manipulation of the market, boosting companies’ share prices (and executives’ options and other ‘performance pay’) at the expense of R&D.”

There is an awful lot of buyback activity around at the moment too – Astra Zeneca, UPS, Discovery, IBM to name a few – and given the embarrassment of huge piles of cash on the balance sheet, it seems the right thing to do. But what these economists argue is that it would be better if companies distributed this excess cash as higher dividends which would encourage more stable shareholding rather than which reward predatory investors looking for a fast buck.

The trouble with that is that increasing dividends typically used to signal improving confidence in long-term earnings and in the current economy companies could soon find themselves reducing dividends again. That would surely send their share prices into a dive – and impact executives’ remuneration packages.

So although it’s not clear who are the big winners from share buybacks – the investors or the executives – as long as companies are sitting on very significant cash balances that are generating very low returns, they are not going away.


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3 Ways to Build Trust In Your Managers

John Baldoni

Trust is an essential part of strong leadership. Developing it requires time, patience–and coaching. Do you trust the people who report to you?

While every leader faces this question, too often the question is framed within the context of right vs. wrong. That is, do you trust your employees to make honest and ethical decisions? In my experience the question of trust should more often be about managerial competence than personal morality.

Read more at >>


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