16 January 2020


Extracting Value from your Big Data

How does one define valuable data?

Loosely, having valuable data means being in a position to effectively problem solve, innovate and support decision making using accurate and timely data. It means having data that is managed and governed correctly, with adequate controls and procedures in place to ensure the right people can access it at the right time to support business activities. Sounds pretty straight forward, right?

Data has become increasingly valuable over the years due to the sheer volume that is being created at. The most mundane of objects have become a breeding ground for data creation; kitchen appliances, cars and alarm clocks can now collect and store large volumes of data (a concept known as the Internet of Things). This enormous creation and collection of data can be referred to as Big Data: a term that has become synonymous with the data centric world we now reside in. To gain a deeper understanding about the level of data now being created, let’s consider the following:

90% of the worlds data has been created in the last two years alone.

Due to the level of data that is now available and being created on a daily basis, it brings with it a vast array of opportunities and challenges for organisations in terms of developing their business and differentiating themselves from their competitors. Whilst many heavyweight companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are pushing the boundaries with their use of data, other organisations are still failing to maximise the opportunities that Big Data presents them with.

There are a number of reasons that can better explain why companies are not grasping the opportunities that arise with Big Data:

  • Poor data management attitudes and behaviours among employees
  • Lack of a clear data strategy
  • Data is extremely complex due to the various formats it’s created in
  • Failure to view data as an organisational asset
  • Having the believe that deriving value from data requires resources and time that could be better allocated elsewhere

On the flip-side, using data effectively can bring with it a huge number of benefits to your organisation, including:

  • Clearer and more detailed insights about your customers, products and markets
  • Helps reduce costs by identifying inefficient processes which can be modified or removed
  • Enabling clear planning and strategy creation supported by detailed data analysis
  • Supports innovation and R&D thus may create a competitive advantage
  • Properly managed data allows for a smoother transition to new technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing and deep learning.

Extracting value from your data is much easier said than done. It requires a high level of planning between all organisational departments, not just those working directly with the data. It requires a bit more leniency from strict I.T departments to loosen their bear hug on company data and allow the right people access to relevant data to support business development. Each member of staff needs to be educated on how to manage data appropriately. They must understand and appreciate that data is one of the most important organisational assets, and its value knows no boundaries if used correctly.

Let’s look at some use cases of companies that use Big Data:

The ethical….

· Netflix uses big data analytics for targeted advertising. Ever wonder how your movie suggestions work on the platform? Well, these suggestions are formulated from analysis on your watch history.

· PepsiCo’s entire supply chain management system is driven by big data analytics to ensure their retailers’ shelves are replenished with the appropriate volumes and types of products.

· Amazon uses Big Data gathered from consumers while they browse to build and fine tune it’s recommendation engine. Once they know what consumers want to buy, they streamline the process of persuading consumers to make a purchase.

And the not so ethical…

· Facebook has landed itself in quite a lot of hot water in recent times, with allegations against them in relation to selling its users data. Although they have denied this, they have admitted that they sell access to users News Feeds to support targeted advertising. Targeted advertising is a huge revenue stream for Facebook, but is the reported $40 billion it generates worth the ethical problems it creates?

Ethical or not, all these companies are demonstrating how Big Data is evolving their business strategies in order to create value for both themselves and in a roundabout way, their consumers. It helps bridge the gap between businesses and their consumers by allowing organisations to better understand buyers and their buying behaviours. Consumers may feel like they are getting a more personalized shopping experience where their needs are known ever before a purchase is made, which speeds up their shopping experience and helps forge a better relationship between both parties. The value here is two-fold – companies are meeting the needs of their customers, and customers are spending their money on the company’s products and services.

Valuable data is reshaping the world we live in. Tech heavy companies are now developing state of the art artificial intelligence machines to evolve and transform many day to day tasks. These technological advances are supported by a strong backbone of huge buckets of data, which need to be clean and managed correctly in order to support the innovative thinking of these forward-thinking organisations. In the case of Getvisibility and our data classification software, we rely on large dumps of clean data to improve our machine learning model. The higher the quality of the data we use to train our model, the better the accuracy of our data classification results and thus, value is created for both all parties.

As highlighted in this blog, Big Data has disrupted how organisations conduct business and has reshaped their business strategies. Whilst there is clearly a wide variety of value to be derived from Big Data, there is without doubt many obstacles for organisations to overcome to fully benefit from it. In my opinion, planning is the most important factor in creating value from data. If the correct data strategies are developed and in place, each member of staff will know their role in the data lifecycle, what insights can be generated using this data and how to control and manage it appropriately. Having this level of alignment between all departments will bring about greater R&D, improved data flows and a greater understanding of how data really can take your organisation to the next level.

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