Is 3-V Approach Sufficient To Understand Big Data?


Search for any article that explains big data and you will find 3 V’s embedded somewhere in the article. The 3 V’s Volume, Velocity, and Variety of data are often narrated as the drivers of big data. Big data technologies are often seen as a response to massive data growth.

When I think about the 3 V’s – I view them as the three serendipitous factors that led to the development of big data – but approaching or understanding big data in those terms would be analogous to explaining the invention of automobile as a response to human population growth and the human need to move around to explore the world. While the invention of automobile indeed help in all of those things – but that invention fundamentally changed how we live.

Once I compared the invention of automobile and the auto sector to the invention of the Internet and information technology sector and my son laughed at my analogy. He said “dad, you can’t compare the two, Internet has completely changed the way we live while all that automobile invention has done is to enable us to move around a little faster.” Only after I explained to him that the invention of automobile was not just a “move around a little faster” innovation, he realized what a huge impact it had on our world. Our industries, retail, supply chains, manufacturing, services, and construction – everything was made possible because of our ability to move people and things faster and more effectively. The reason you can go down to your grocery store and buy fruits produced in Mexico is because the auto invention revolutionized the supply chains.

Similarly, big data is not just a natural progression or the evolutionary next step in the natural progression of information processing. Instead it is a revolutionary leap ahead. Its biggest benefit is being able to create a higher level of abstraction – support constructs and models made possible by our ability to process massive volumes of information – which augment our intellectual capacity.

Computers enabled us to process transactional or human contractual information. We automated processes and applied some analysis on that data. But big data is changing everything. Big data is not just about contractual information – it is capturing human thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors, cognition, and actions. And it is doing all that by capturing different types of information e.g. visual, audial, textual, contextual etc.

So when we think about big data, we should not limit ourselves to think about velocity, volume, and variety as that limits our ability to truly observe the rise of big data.