You can hardly open a business or a technology publication these days without finding an article about the promise of Big Data. After all, the idea of having unlimited customer insights, in real time, guiding every decision, sounds quite attractive.

New technologies (Hadoop, Mongo, NoSQL, and others) are offering businesses the opportunity to analyze very large amounts of unstructured data at a scale and speed that was simply not possible just a few years ago.

And the predictions are quite bold: "enterprises adopting this technology to outperform competitors by 20% in every available financial metric," according to Gartner.

True, data is a key resource for any marketer, or for any businessperson. The success stories of businesses using data to improve the business are well documented. Also true is that the promise of having infinite insights is quite attractive. However, you will hit bumps on the journey to the Promised Land. Today, Big Data is more a piece of the technology than a complete solution with a clear path to business value.

Before you embark on a Big Data project, you have to separate the buzz from the reality. I can think of five challenges that limit the ability of marketers to turn the Big Data hype into insight, business value, and ultimately, increased revenue.

1. Data Sources

Most companies struggle to get "good" data, "OK" data, and sometimes even "some" data about their customers. Without an ability to extract data from your systems, you won't have much data to analyze. I have been at organizations where customer information was scattered across 80 databases. The dynamic nature of business today, with mergers and acquisitions, only makes the problem worse. Data integration remains a technology problem that is not solved by Big Data.

2. Deriving Insights

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image of Gerardo A. Dada

Gerardo A. Dada is a technology marketer with 15+ years of experience driving business strategy and product marketing for technology companies, including Rackspace, Bazaarvoice, and Vignette/OpenText. He was director of worldwide developer marketing and community at Microsoft and led mobile developer programs and tools marketing at Motorola. Gerardo is author of The Adaptive Marketer blog. Reach him via Twitter at @gerardodada.