Time to Stop Talking Around Big Data, Embrace It and Drive Your Business Forward

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Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO
Original Link: Digitizing Polaris
Date Published: July 21, 2017

One of the most pressing challenges facing modern businesses today is shifting culture towards a data scientist-driven approach. To complete this shift, a company doesn’t just need a big data strategy, it needs a business strategy that incorporates big data in a way that empowers all employees to think like data scientists.

Developing the Data-Driven Business

For businesses, “big data” means taking information from various disconnected sources and using analytics tools to combine it and find new insights. It’s about correlation, discovering connections between events or information that were previously hidden

For the modern company, data is the most important asset, one that is dynamically changing. Valuable data sets come into play every day from mobile-based customer interactions to the billions of internet-connected “things” coming online. The trick for companies is to develop smart strategies to leverage this flood of data and to monetize data while improving customer loyalty and overall experience.

Three Tactics to Become a Data Driven Company

Think Differently

To think differently, you must create a business strategy that focuses on data, one driven by the leaders of the organization. Adopting a big data approach requires a cultural shift within all levels of the organization. For example, training is crucial for the adoption of big data-focused analytics tools. Staff members must understand how to look at large data sets and pull insights, whether they are based on customer behaviors, problems in the supply chain, or adjustments that could be made to operational processes.

The training needs to include actual sessions with the technology to showcase the ease of use and how it relates to the specific individual’s role within the company. It also needs to be backed by management and include a shift to a more of a real-time and cross-departmental structure. This requires management to loosen some of the constraints of the traditional business hierarchy, where previously insights had to go up a lengthy chain of approval or review. There are still checks and balances, but there is a shorter cultural pathway from finding out something is wrong to implementing a data-driven fix.

Another cultural change involves ceasing to make decisions and taking action based solely on “gut feelings.” This doesn’t limit intuition or innovation, but it mitigates risks and uses hard data as a way to augment creativity and decision making. It’s a model with built-in accountability as staff members need to justify their recommended actions with data.

Make Real World Changes through Data

Companies need to make dramatic data-centric shifts because of the real, impactful changes it can produce. Big data will drive change and induce innovation in your company as well as spur growth, improve agility and foster communication. And data is the most important asset to monetize drive loyalty and safeguard privacy and security.

Consider these examples of the direct impacts of a big data approach:

  • Review financial data to uncover incidences of fraud or potential risk
  • Refine a product’s attributes based on customer-derived data and sales numbers. For example, analyze how customers run on an IoT-enabled treadmill and adjust its construction accordingly.
  • Analyze target markets to see if demographic parameters are off-base and make adjustments
  • Enhance the customer experience by offering deals and retention strategies that are backed by data insights
  • Develop surprising new marketing initiatives and targets through review of sales data combined with customer service data, and other sources

For an industry-specific example, the advertising industry is rapidly changing due to new streams of data. Advertisers and broadcasters crave detailed metrics on viewer behaviors, they are now receiving new details via “second screen” behaviors. A significant number of consumers utilize their phones or tablets while watching television and their actions during this time provide advertisers with rich data about likes and dislikes, which can then be used for more targeted advertising campaigns.

Build a Big Data Strategy

In order to reach the goal of a data-driven company, every firm needs a big data strategy that breaks from conventional thinking. This is a whole business initiative, not an IT initiative; however, IT should enable your result. IT should be at the lead of the implementation as they control the information, but multi-departmental cooperation is a must. Remember the business goals always comes first. Develop a sound business strategy that incorporates data as a core element, with a focus on how staff members make decisions that ultimately impact the business. Augment these decisions with rich and multi-sourced data, and you’ll create a company that can move with agility beyond its competitors.

Here are some of the key steps for creating a data-driven company:

  • Assess pressing business needs. What are the unknowns about products, customers, and internal processes?
  • Map out your data architecture and identify all data sources. Can you pull together customer service chat transcripts along with website visitation metrics? You need disconnected data sets.
  • Determine how to consolidate and relate all of the data sets.
  • Develop user-friendly solutions to analyze the data to help you find surprising insights. Data should drive discovery. Let users play with the information in new ways. Rigid Excel reports and big data analytics do not mix.
  • Turn those insights into actions.
  • Consistently look to bring in new data sets.

There are some of the caveats of the big data approach that companies should be cognizant of so that the can make informed strategic moves. An over- reliance on big data shouldn’t remove personal communication between the company and consumer. And, while there are many correlations that can be uncovered through big data analysis, there’s still a human element needed to confirm that the correlations make contextual sense to the business. It’s still an “art and science” approach, ideally one where the data makes decisions better and faster.

And don’t worry if you are just entering the big data game. The truth is that cost effective data management wasn’t available until recently, so it is not unusual to have a ton of data in many, many different places. As you begin, make a goal of centralizing your data so that scalability to meet the needs of your business is less complicated down the road. The amount of data gathered increases exponentially; so, you’ll be glad you started now.

AUTHOR BIO:

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is the CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a technology-based agency specializing in analytics and accountable brand advertising. She has strategically positioned the agency to be at the forefront of the marketing paradigm where art meets science. Throughout her tenure with Hawthorne Direct, she has fostered long-standing relationships with the company’s expansive base of diversified clients resulting from an unwavering commitment to unparalleled service. Her role principally involves fostering long-standing client relationships to develop highly strategic and measurable advertising campaigns, designed to ignite immediate consumer response.

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