I had the honor to be on The Interop Conference Big Data Panel in Las Vegas yesterday. The panel was composed of friends from Cloudera, Datameer, Aryaka and it was part of an all-day workshop led by Big Data celebrity and evangelist Chris Taylor. The focus of the discussion was “The Future of Data”. The audience was composed of very savvy technical leaders from diverse industries from financial services to retail to universities.

Debates like these can sometimes derail into sales pitches and friendly remarks. This time, though, the discussion, brilliantly orchestrated by Matt Marshall, Founder and CEO of VentureBeat, turned into a very passionate exchange on the key themes challenging our industry. We got so excited that Matt and Chris let us go over time to engage with the audience.

By the time we were done, I realized we hadn’t touched on a key theme Matt was interested in: Big Data and ROI. Many of you will be asked to justify the investment you’re making in Big Data Analytics technology. ROI is key term you’ll hear. It stands for “Return On Investment”.

Sure, there are many ways to justify technology investments and firms like Gartner and Forrester have built such models.

I’ll tell you this though. Companies that are trying to look at Data Analytics as a tactical budget item are in trouble. Think about it this way: do you have to justify the return on investment of your financial department? Probably not. Why? Because you need it to better run your business, safeguard yourself from exposure and spot opportunities before it’s too late – in short, to run your business better.

The same goes of Big Data and Analytics. Data Analytics will have immediate and long term return on investment on your culture, your processes and your bottom line. Now, you do want to use the most appropriate technology so you can avoid burning money on the wrong things…but that’s a different question. We happen to believe we have the most effective option for Terabyte-range Data Analytics problems.

If you are still running into ROI discussion issues – try this tactic: figure out the cost of a “wrong decision”. Meaning – what happens when your company, your executive team and/or your front-line employees execute the wrong moves because they didn’t have the right insights?

A customer of ours recently evaluated that the wrong “first move” could cost $50,000 in straight cost or lost opportunity. And that’s the first move. Unfortunately, “wrong first moves” rarely happen in isolation and the bill can quickly increase in an uncontrollable manner. How is that for an ROI?