How to make sure your enterprise is ready for Big Data

Big Data
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Use Big Data to help you find what is real, not to prove points, and you will find it powerful in improving strategic and operational decisions.

Every year or so, a new silver bullet enters the business lexicon. Just in case the new concept really holds the key to future success, the responsible executive must learn and assess this solution for valued use.

“Big Data” has been coming up for a while, but has really hit the front pages this past year. What is it? Should you care?

Big Data refers to all that data you are collecting internally (e.g., employee card swipes, equipment readings, incoming calls) or that is being collected externally (e.g., cell phone locations, website visits, apps like Waze or Belly), via technology in both cases. It may reside in emails, in databases or in application software.

In its current state, it’s a long way from being information, but there are likely a few needles in that haystack.

Increased data collection

As technology proliferates and data storage costs fall, the collection of data will continue to expand. You need a plan to convert it to information that facilitates better business decisions.

First, there are those questions you know you have that require information to answer well. Amazon provides a well-known example of this.

Without a commitment to fast, accurate delivery of customer orders, Amazon would be just another distributor. But as part of that company’s commitment to pressing the limits, it recently opened a pilot warehouse in New York City promising one-hour delivery of a specified group of items, within a certain radius.

Without data on ordering patterns, business density and traffic patterns, this pilot project could not succeed. With it, the company will learn a lot as it moves closer to its goals.

There are also those questions you don’t even know you have, but that the data can point you to. Public examples are harder to find, but consider your own business.

You might find a correlation between unplanned equipment shutdowns and purchases of MRO (maintenance, repair and operating) supplies. Or you’ll see connections between those shutdowns and the absentee of a particular employee. Whether using external or internal data, there’s no telling where it can take you.

Tweeze out the useful data

One place you don’t want Big Data to take you is down a rabbit hole. Not all data will be useful, and no data is unbiased information without a trained mind looking at it.

Statistics don’t lie; statisticians do. If you want to use data to verify an opinion, you’ll likely be able to find data to do so. That doesn’t make it true. To effectively use Big Data, you need resources with an understanding of the data (definitions, timing, reliability, etc.) as well as statistics.

Use Big Data to help you find what is real, not to prove points, and you will find it powerful in improving strategic and operational decisions. It is not a silver bullet, but it certainly is important and worth your time.