Reset on big data — or miss the big change

Reset on big data — or miss the big change

Summary: As data explodes, so do old ways of doing business.

TOPICS: Big Data
Reset on big data or miss the big change

Big data is undergoing big change, but most companies are missing it or just grasping at the edges.

My colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo and I have just completed an exhaustive study of the big data phenomenon. We found a familiar pattern: business confusion in the face of stern warnings about the dangers of big data and vendor-sponsored papers extolling its benefits. Here’s what we found hidden beneath the buzz.

As data explodes, so do old ways of doing business

Everywhere we look, we find businesses using more diverse, messier, and larger data sets to stay competitive in the age of the customer — like the consumer goods firm that allocated marketing dollars based on flu trend predictions and the oil and gas companies that used weather data to predict iceberg flows and extend their drilling season.

Savvy businesses find ways to turn more data into a competitive advantage. If your firm doesn’t get this, it won’t be pretty — starting in the not too distant future.

Technology managers and architects can’t afford to sit back and think that their Hadoop project will deliver everything the business needs. Nor can you afford to think that big data isn’t for you because you don’t have that much data.

Why? Because “big data” is really the practices and technologies that close the gap between the available data and the ability to turn that data into business insight — insight that your firm needs to survive and thrive in the age of the customer. Four things to understand:

  • It’s not the amount of data, it’s what you do with it. Big data provides a high-definition view of your business and your customers’ behavior and lets you deliver personalized experiences at scale. Big data is finally making data a strategic asset — so what is your firm doing to build on it? How are you going to use this new asset to delight customers and squeeze competitors?

  • You need to take action and challenge the status quo. Big data success requires overcoming any momentum in the wrong direction — such as executives’ tendency to hoard data or lack business curiosity about what quantitative insights are possible. It also means that business must take accountability for data and stop making data issues “an IT problem.”

  • You face risks that you don’t understand. Big data gives your firm the power to understand customers in ways not before possible. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Even the US federal government recognizes that big data means that policy has to change to protect citizens. How will your firm navigate the risks and ethical situations presented?

  • Describing big data with Vs is stale and not actionable. The Vs of big data have run their course; they were useful when we knew little about big data, but they no longer inspire action. Instead, refocus your change effort on keeping the three Cs in balance: a data-driven culture; the competency to leverage data that is more diverse, messier, and larger than you’re used to; and the technical capabilities to put the right insights into the hands of your customers and employees.

Topic: Big Data

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  • This looks like an infomercial to me

    IMHO, this blurb has very little substance. Most of it sounds like some kind of mantra that is more appropriate for a self-improvement class. If you ask me how I know this, well,,,, try to replace "big data" with just another buzzword and voila it still works except it is a "blog" with a new title. For instance, very little will change if I just replace "big data" with "customer data".

    And seriously, can you please substantiate this claim "Big data gives your firm the power to understand customers in ways not before possible." What does it mean? Does the author know that if the number of the customers smaller than the number of different descriptors that the firm can collect about the customers then it is very easy to find many new ways "to understand customers" that will have very little to do with the actual behavior of these customers and no amount of "practices and technologies" can remedy this.
  • Customers are not correlations

    There appears to be a trend of using data to categorize customers into various pigeon holes and then make claims such as "greater customer intimacy" or "understanding the customer". But this is a collective understanding derived from correlations not from individual customer behaviors.

    There is a continued disintermediation of the customer through data. We have seen this before in financial services and the unfortunate results; customers become "Muppets" .

    The data does not capture the customer experience. It only captures that data the developers decided was necessary to complete a transaction. Organizations then use customer surveys to capture the reactions of customers but those are after the fact and done without a context.

    Organizations have created digital personas of their customers and profess they "know" their customer. Data does not capture feelings, experiences and behaviors of customers. Organizations begin to "hide" behind their data, increasingly disintermediating their customers. Being aware of this is critical when deciding how to design and use data.

    A system or data does not "relate" to a customer, people do. Forget this and you may find your organization with a lot of data and correlations and fewer customers and not understand how that happened.