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bigdata“Big Data”. If you have not been living in a dark hole without any means of communication for the past 7 years, chances are you have come across the term before. And while your memories of it might be fuzzy, you probably already have an opinion on the matter. For some a wonder, for others a scary ghost, no matter what, this child of the digital era is considered the most significant opportunity of the 21st century.

 

What is big data?

Big Data is a whole lot of things, but if we wanted to sum it up in one sentence: Big Data entails collecting data and analyzing it, by everyone and most especially, by businesses. Now, many of you will most certainly doubt of its efficiency, and to those I say: too bad, because it works. Just take a look at Macy’s, who has managed all of their sales team from a single platform and has analyzed their behaviors so quickly it can respond to any problem in a matter of minutes; or Google, who studied internal numbers and as a result reformed their entire hiring procedure, boosting the level of their management. They are not alone either, many others such as UPS or Click employ Big Data analysis. All those companies have been able to adapt to the context of an ever-innovating market by reacting and predicting customer and staff behavior and creating competitive internal and external policies.

Number of related articles have underlined the variating opinions on its importance, and while a miracle for economists and sociologists, Big Data is still seen as dreadful by many. Why? Privacy. Indeed, the idea that today more than ever, Big Brother Ltd could be watching at any time to see if you liked “Despicable Me 2” on Facebook can set aback more than one. However, like many fears, it is mostly unfounded: If used correctly, Big Data is no scarier than an open encyclopedia. An encyclopedia that soon, everyone will have open. It’s necessary for current organizations to start thinking Big Data, because like the dot com innovation before, what is today an entirely new tool will become part of their daily routine in ten years.

Now, this is all old news. You might even be wondering what this article is all about then. Well, while the most obvious benefits of Big Data are known, according to our expert Rahaf Harfoush, the majority of companies either do not know where to start or what to do to use it correctly, leading to a loss of potential, time and money. Here is a short briefing on not only the Big Benefits but also the Big Bills of Big Data.

 

The Big Presents: what’s in it for you, really?

Increasing Productivity

Back in 2002, Target was one of the first organization to hire a data analyst. His job was to understand the links between customer products and purchasing behavior, thanks to which Target was able to not only increase their responsiveness to consumer desires but anticipate them and launch new lines of products without having to wait for them to be requested. This productivity increase reflected on their revenue, which increased from 44 billion to 67 billion dollars in a matter of years.

This is one example of how much productivity can be increased by using Big Data. But it’s certainly not the only one. There are many ways to use the Big D, and many ways to profit from it. And that is the point: not only can you tremendously boost your productivity by using Big Data, you can do it on all levels. There are countless other experiences that could illustrate why productivity is increased by using Big Data. To only cite a few:

  • Personalization: Think of eHarmony – thanks to Big Data, companies are able to create a hyper-personalized product to give customers, with rates of satisfaction never heard of before.
  • Understanding the status of ongoing projects: The secret of Big Data, like Ms. Harfoush likes to call it, lies in its ability to move beyond figures and metrics and to understand human behavior – think opinion polls, social media “likes” and “shares”.
  • Reusing the information collected: Let us take the example of UPS. By cross-comparing road traffic and the data from their trucks’ GPS, UPS was able to predict when the engine would break down and need repair, but they also analyzed the data to pick out unusual criteria for shorter roads (no left-turn, no idling at red lights). By using twice the same data, they saved time and money and increased customer satisfaction.

And remember: Big Data does not have to be complicated. If you don’t know where to start, simply take a sheet of paper to rate employees’ satisfaction at the end of each meeting. After a while, you will see which meetings are the most appreciated and those that are not, correct? Congratulations. You just used Big Data.

Building a Better Company Culture

Setting a clear values-based company culture is one of today’s most crucial quality on the talent workforce market. Google launched a Project Oxygen by using their internal data to build better managers. For three months after the launch they looked at all sorts of data, and came up at the end with a list of 8 ranked values that all of Google’s managers had in common. By using this new data, they were able to reprioritize their hiring policies and train current managers, some of whom showed up to 75% improvement rates. Therefore, just like was shown by Google’s Project Oxygen, collecting opinions among your staff on several internal affairs – such as management efficiency, leader development, team building, company culture etc. – turns out to be today’s leading way to ensure the happiest and most productive workplace possible, but also to:

  • Remaining an attractive company for talent;
  • Increase the productivity of your employees by raising the overall happiness level;
  • Nurture cross departmental communication for an improved innovation.

 

Golden rules of the Big D.

Now that we’ve laid out why you using is interesting, it seems important to remind you that thinking Big Data requires to follow certain rules:

  1. Analyze it, you will have to. Big Data without analysis is nothing but a never-ending stream of numbers. Do not give in to laziness: define objectives and hire a data analyst to apply them to your numbers.
  2. Fear it, you ought not to. Fearing the Big Data will only make you think Small, not Big. Of course, precautions ought to be taken but keep being rational or else you will find yourself and your company sinking.
  3. Ethical, you have to be. Big Data is great. It’s fantastic, even. But do not abuse of people’s confidence – do not step over the line of privacy, which leads us to…
  4. Transparent, you shall act. Transparency is the key. It should actually stand on top of this list. If you are not transparent about your objectives and what data you wish to use to achieve them, if you don’t let people have an opt-out option, then you are running yourself into a wall.
  5. Everyone, you will involve. Big Data is not merely reserved to the data analyst. Everyone should make use of some of the Big Data produced within the company’s reach. After all, it is the fuel of tomorrow.

 

While the world is slowly leaping into a digital sea, understanding what it is leaping in seems necessary to the survival of the many company boats out there. Using the new Holy Grail of Technology might be a challenge for companies whose corporate culture is not adaptive, however, as Geoffrey Moore once said, “Without Big Data, you are blind and deaf in the middle of a freeway.”