One of the top five areas of exploration for many CIOs in 2012 was big data. And it's no wonder.

With massive volumes of valuable unstructured data permeating the average organization on a daily basis, manufacturers are in an analytics arms race to help them leverage those untapped data sets for more meaningful business insights and enhanced decision-making capabilities -- something traditional analytics solutions of a pre-big data era simply can't do.

With so much at stake, investment in big data and big data analytics is expected to see enormous growth in the next few years. Gartner, for example, predicts that big data spend will double in the three years between 2012 and 2015.

Furthermore, International Data Corp. (IDC) projected last week that the worldwide big data technology and services market will grow at a 31.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next three years -- about seven times the rate of the overall information and communication technology (ICT) market.

As a result, we expect an increasing number of CIOs to put big data at the top of their list of strategic initiatives this year.

To help them as they explore this rich new field, I have put together five things to consider when making their 2013 big data investments.

Five Things to Consider

1. Big data will create new opportunities to understand and manage things differently.

A leading MIT professor once said, “Most great revolutions in science are preceded by revolutions in measurement.”

Business analytics has given us a very clear window into measuring our customers, our business processes, our employees and our suppliers. Thanks to that, we now know what is working well within our organization and what is not.

Success with analytics technology has paved the way for the big data revolution, which promises unprecedented insights into business and provides opportunities to understand and manage things differently. But only those organizations that are comfortable with traditional business analytics will be successful with big data, due to the sheer size and scope of data they would have to manage and analyze. Getting your “foundational” business intelligence infrastructure in order is a key first step.

One of the many intriguing things about big data analysis is it often brings a view to your business that has been traditionally underrepresented in your decision making. Big data promises to bring disruptive change across all industry segments and give the companies an unfair advantage.

According to a McKinsey analysis, a retailer that can effectively derive the right insight from big data has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60%.