Big Victories with Big Data

I came to Michigan Software Labs after spending several years working in big data. While I was part of a larger team, I’ve seen first hand how big data can be used to help improve and grow businesses and organizations. The term (“big data”) is often misunderstood or misapplied - the following is an attempt to help you better understand the concept so you can apply it in your professional world. And also remember “big data” doesn’t need to mean millions and millions of rows of data in multiple databases. What is “big data” for one company isn’t “big data” for everyone.

First, let’s start with how important big data is to big businesses. Accenture recently did a survey of Fortune 500 companies and found that 95% of companies with revenues greater than $10 billion reported being “highly satisfied” or “satisfied” with their business outcomes from big data. This is quite the accomplishment considering it has only recently been applied (within the last 10 years) and is a newer trend.

  • Starting small. The survey also revealed how important it was to “start local, and end global.” Meaning, a company should pick a very narrow focus to start with rather than trying to boil the ocean. For example, a global retailer began working in big data within one small part of the marketing department. They then introduced it to more digital channels and it is now being introduced across the global enterprise. Starting small allows the company to set realistic expectations for c-suite executives and stakeholders. It also helps focus resources around proving value first and then letting the concept disseminate out organically.

  • Use an Agile approach. The correct way to drive results from analytics and big data is to take an iterative approach. This is more difficult than it sounds since big data is not a one size fits all concept. KPMG uses an Agile approach which is shown in the chart below. In this example, the idea is to take an iterative approach and fail fast while continuing on the loop of progress towards a pilot. The results are not magic - rather, they are scientifically discovered and tested through a process of discovery.

  • Be disruptive. Based on the survey results I mentioned before, nearly eight out of ten (79 percent) agree that companies that do not embrace big data will lose their competitive position and may even face extinction. This is alarming and points to the truth of how disruptive big data is becoming. Early adopters are seeing a competitive advantage and can use it as a weapon in their industry. One example of disruption is from a U.S.-based financial institution. They struggled to get real-time analysis on incoming data due to an outdated system. After installing new architecture and a new credit card data warehouse, they reduced storage costs and help transform their consumer analytics platform. They are now one of the leaders in their industry. This simple story shows just how important and how disruptive big data can be.

By applying these three concepts, your company will be well on the way to getting results from big data. My experience has shown that it takes patience to wait for value to surface from a big data project. While the process can be broken up in to small bite-sized pieces, it is important to know that the entire effort will resemble a marathon of 26 small sprints. My encouragement to you is not to get discouraged but rather to be patient while you continue to optimize and fine tune your results. I’m cheering for you.