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How To Unlock The Value In Your Company’s Big Data
December 28, 2016 News analytics big data Business


With all the buzz around big data, it’s no surprise that businesses have recognized its potential and are directing valuable resources towards collecting and storing every piece of data possible. In fact, according to a recent Gartner study, three-quarters of companies have already invested in big data or plan to within the next two years.

As the Gartner report highlights, big data is seen as a major opportunity for businesses to achieve their goals, “such as enhancing the customer experience, streamlining existing processes, achieving more targeted marketing and reducing costs.” But to achieve these goals, it’s not enough to just collect the data. The true value comes from using it to unveil insights that move your business forward.

A few organizations are already there. As Lisa Kart, research director at Gartner, explains in that same report: “As big data becomes the new normal, information and analytics leaders are shifting focus from hype to finding value.”

So how do you make the most of your company’s data and capitalize on the insights it can unlock? After many years working on a better solution for visualizing data, here are my top three rules to get the most out of big data for your business.

 Break The Big Data Bottleneck

Many organizations turn to small teams of highly skilled data scientists to wade through their sea of data and pick out the useful nuggets. The problem with this approach is that it rarely happens quickly, diminishing the timeliness value of the data and ultimately not giving front-line users much to work with. This forms a big data bottleneck — by the time a report is generated, the data has often changed and its findings may be obsolete.

I think the solution lies in encouraging all your people to become data enthusiasts. Motivate your employees to use data to help them with their jobs. Data scientists will remain as the elite professionals, but empowering everyone across your business to dig into big data for themselves can help you break this bottleneck.

To do so, we also need to lower the barrier to entry for understanding data. One way to do this is by making it possible for anyone in an organization to achieve analytical outcomes without being data scientists. By using software such as a business intelligence (BI) solution, employees can interact with big data in user-friendly ways and collaborate in the decision-making process about this data. There are many BI solutions out there, you just have to find the one that best suits your business needs.

Find The Questions You Never Knew To Ask

The value of big data is not limited to finding answers to your questions. Often, it is about finding new questions to ask. For example, questions like “Who are my top customers?” or “Where did I sell the most products last year?” They are certainly useful, but sometimes these inquiries unlock answers that lead to even more beneficial questions. You may discover something interesting in the report, such as “This American bank isn’t as big a customer as I thought – it’s number 12. But this French grocery retailer is on the top 10 list, which I hadn’t realized.” From there, you may decide to look into the buying trends among other customers in this sector or investigate the size of deals made with banking clients versus those with retailers.

To help figure out these new questions to ask, look at the data differently. Data scientists aren’t just sitting there developing algorithms to work with large lists of numbers, they’re putting this data into easy-to-view graphics to show the patterns. This can be as basic as creating a graph in Excel that compares the correlation between two data sources. The important thing is to not just look at the data, but to ask questions — for instance, “Which other companies are similar to this French grocery retailer?” — to deliver real business value.

Collaborate For Collective Insight

Imagine if multiple people each asked a question of the same set of data. If each pursued the question individually, they might get different answers. But if the question is asked collaboratively, they might get an even stronger answer. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Personally, I think of analysis as a team sport.

 This is also an opportunity to get data scientists and data enthusiasts working together. I recommend that teams share and collaborate on data across different workgroups and departments. Collectively, they’ll be able to ask questions that are bigger than one individual would think of. Technology available today, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Facebook’s Workplace, includes great tools to enable regular cross-team communication and collaboration on data issues.

Just be sure your company has put together a sound data governance program to ensure you’re not corrupting the quality of your data. But once this is in place, collaboration will be the deciding factor to getting the most out of big data for your business.

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