Big Data Is Here. So Now What?

big data is here

While many organizations operate in silos, it’s the interconnectedness of various departments that drive long-term success. Big data is a critical ingredient in creating cohesion and keeping your company moving in the right direction. 

Big data is defined by Gartner as “high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” In layman’s terms, it is all of the data generated by running a business – and it can reveal valuable insights. Big data spans all areas of the organization, integrating information from the loading dock to the head office, including operational costs, overhead, ERP systems, engineering, fulfillment, customer service and any other trackable data. By reviewing the big picture, you can begin to understand the way different departments (like sales and marketing) affect other areas of your business.

Reporting is a key part of day-to-day operations, but most organizations report on a departmental or functional level. Because data is always changing, any report that is pulled offers a glimpse at a specific point in time. Add to this the subjectivity of analysis - the concepts of “good” and “bad” vary greatly based on who is reviewing a report and their departmental and personal goals - and you can see why team-specific reports lead to greater divisions and increased finger-pointing. The theory of big data suggests we should look at data in real time and across all functions. This seems obvious, but how do you do it?

First, in order to harness the impact of big data for the overall organization, disparate groups must have an honest conversation regarding goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reach consensus about what the numbers mean. 

Then comes intense self-examination. Organizations must seriously consider what is most important to them. Which business systems are in place in your organization and what are they being used for? Which systems are most effective? What is the value of each tactic or metric, not just of the time spent on the activity but of the outcome? Which numbers mean the most to your business? 

Harnessing the potential of big data can seem overwhelming, but there are amazing tools out there (like Domo and Tableau) that can help integrate and automate the collection of data and streamline the reporting process. These applications can take analysis only so far – it’s important to leverage the things about big data that are most beneficial while realizing that your team will need to supplement in the areas where big data is lacking. This may mean adding new roles to your team. We see great potential for an “Integrator of Data,” a new role that reveals an organization’s data, its integration points and determines what should be measured. This position also requires the ability to envision, interpret and socialize the benefits of the data connections.

Once your organization has created a team or task force that is dedicated to data collaboration and integration, defined its key metrics and has started to identify and collate data points, you can begin to involve others in the process. One of the most impactful ways to leverage big data is by making it public within your organization and socializing analytics. 

If everyone in the organization has full visibility into how things are going, you are more likely to have increased participation and engagement in process improvements and strategic planning. Instead of each team reviewing an individualized dashboard and developing personal plans, your organization begins to think, “How can we do this together?” 

Everyone can be a steward of the data, even if their definitions of success are different. Regardless of personal goals, every individual at your organization has shared goals. Big data can provide a level of security and insight that helps drive better decision making. While risk is always present and there are so many variables to consider, having one shared pool of information helps keep everyone moving in the same direction.

Big data is here to stay, and to make the most of what’s available to your organization, you have to be prepared for continual conversations that drive transparency and alignment across departments. It’s also critical to have the right resources in place to analyze and interpret your data and help you turn information into action. Whether this is a dedicated internal team member or an external agency, undivided attention is necessary to make an impact.

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