Success in the big data world is far more than what many of the software and hardware vendors would have you believe. Simply buying software does not qualify as being in the big data world. It may only mean that considerable corporate resources have been expended with the hope of doing something productive with large datasets, usually resulting from the digital explosion. Unfortunately, many who choose to engage in big data will eventually fail to successfully exploit it. However, corporate politics will preclude many from admitting failure.
So what can be done to successfully capture the big data opportunity before it’s too late? Big data success is built upon the proverbial three-legged stool. Eliminate any one of the unique legs, and the stool falls down.
First Leg: Data Sourcing
Data sourcing is not the same as just capturing Google data or Twitter feeds. Data sourcing requires knowledge of all the potential data streams available in order to build the most accurate and complete outcomes for decision making. A limited focus on the vast digital data streams generated online and through social networks will only provide an incomplete, and somewhat biased view.
These digital sources, while valuable, are oftentimes third party data which require numerous unverified assumptions be me made before it can be relied upon. Large amounts of publicly available data provided directly from consumers, via government sources, survey data and transactional data (first party data) are often overlooked. These data sources offer invaluable insights that are much more specific, detailed and accurate than digital third party data. Another advantage is these data sets oftentimes cover years and can be trended, correlated and integrated with the new digital data to provide a more robust outcome. Eliminate either of these data sources, and you won’t have this leg of the stool.
Second Leg: Skilled Human Resources in both Technology and Marketing
This is where the ball gets dropped by many who believe that licensing software and accessing or buying hardware is enough to succeed. The hype around big data has enticed many to think this way, only to find out that the software, hardware and even data flows are not turn-key solutions and require specific skills not present in most companies. Data scientists are not easy to find and typical marketing support staffs don’t always have the requisite background and experience for sourcing and analyzing the right data sets necessary to develop applications for solving business problems. The shortage of human capital presents a major obstacle for most organizations. Short change this leg and you only have access to data with little chance of capitalizing on new insights for business decisions and ultimately better insights is what big data is all about.
Third Leg: Mobilizing Staff for Analytics
The last leg of the stool is mobilizing staff to utilize the data and create problem solving applications from analysis. These apps need to address identified business outcomes useful for all levels of the organization. Special attention needs to be paid to prevent the development of or overreliance on a new “IT-type” department built on big data. Concentrating this power in a single area may slow outcomes/application development and cause staff to lose interest.
Building a Big Data Stool for Success
Building the big data three-legged stool can be done one of two ways. The first being you build it yourself. This choice may seem like the most appealing, but it also has the most risk and expense due to the issues and requirements mentioned earlier. The second option is to find a partner/vendor who can supply a turn-key approach. Turn-key implementation is more than software and a platform. It also includes all the executional responsibilities to make the investment work. With a turn-key solution, big data can be more quickly diffused throughout an organization, without having to concentrate access and usage in the hands of a few number crunchers who know how to access big data software. Real business solutions from big data need to be more strategic and derived from analysis of several data sets (orthogonal) to discover “unknown knowns” necessary for success in making business decisions. The three-legged big data stool can only function effectively when these types of outcomes are routine.
Gary Drenik is CEO of Prosper Insights & Analytics, a company that prides itself on turning data into solutions. www.ProsperDiscovery.com