Huge computing advances in both hardware and software capabilities have been made in the last 5 years. From a marketing perspective we have sophisticated software technologies like customer relationship management (CRM) and voice of customer (VoC) platforms combined with a variety of external business and government data sources. The net result is marketers now have unparalleled access to a data (big data) unlike any other time in human history. The characteristics of this big data often being defined in the corporate environment by one or all of the 4 V’s – volume (amount), variety (different sources), velocity (frequency and speed) and veracity (accuracy).
On the street you hear a lot of buzz around the terms ‘big data analytics and big data projects’. I would contend that instead of framing them as big data projects, we need to continue to frame them as business or marketing projects. What I mean by that is when you are looking at big data analytics it is like the case of the ‘dog chasing the car’ – what do you do with it once you catch it? In an effort to remain consistent with the business or marketing project position, I would submit that we need to follow these two very important tenets:
- Data needs to change into customer insights and insight needs to change into a better marketing decision, and if you have customer insight that doesn’t change into a better marketing (business) decision that is called trivia.
2. Be an informed skeptic.
What do I mean by the term informed skeptic? I mean a person who has the ability to apply judgement to analysis and listens to others, but is also willing to dissent. Too often people are either totally reliant on analysis or reliant on intuition. In this age of big data and high powered machine learning technologies we must never discount the importance of human judgement in the business or marketing decisions we make.
Here is a decision-maker continuum of a study that was completed by the Corporate Executive Board (Shah et al, 2012) where 5,000 employees in 22 global companies were surveyed on their decision-making profiles. 19% of the employees are visceral decision makers, 38% informed skeptics and 43% unquestioning empiricists.
As my company is making the transition to big data analytics here are a few ideas that are beginning to emerge from the discussions among the various internal stakeholders:
- Big data analytics is a process.
- Big data analytics is about cultural change.
- Governance and standardization of data is key.
- Big data analytics impacts everyone in the organization.
- Big analytics is about value creation.
- Everyone in the organization needs to begin to think like a data scientist.
- Ask the right question to gain the best insight.
- Big data analytics is not limited to numbers only.
- Unstructured data like words and narratives can be analyzed too.
If you are a marketing analyst or manager and your company has not begun or is beginning to embrace big data analytics, get ready and stay true to the above two tenets mentioned or else the tsunami that is coming is going to catch you.