How big data can support self-service technology

Today we live in a world of self-service. More tasks than ever before can be completed without even a hint of social interaction, from withdrawing money to buying fuel. The trend has developed so much in recent years that Costa has even developed a self-service approach to fresh coffee, all to quench our collective thirst to avoid the conversational drudgery of human interaction. However, this is more about speed than unsociable nature — and it’s a trend that is here to stay.

It is likely that many of us would be unable to remember exactly the last time that we didn’t use a supermarket’s express self-service checkout when doing the weekly shop. The reason we choose to do this, usually, is in the name itself. It is an express service -- faster and with less hassle.

The changing nature of user interaction

Most industries are adapting to cater for this changing nature of user interaction, placing more of a focus on speed. This makes for faster checkouts, a faster refill and even a faster double-espresso skinny-decaf gingerbread Frappuccino.

Clearly, this influx of user-friendly, timesaving technology is a direct reaction to the changing nature of consumer interaction. In consumer technology, this is represented by the instant gratification provided by smartphones and tablets that allow users full access to the Internet, leaving a long trail of data ripe for interpretation in their wake.

The big data landscape represents not only a shift in data quantity, but in its perceived quality to individuals and businesses alike. By harnessing this surge in data, real insight can be gleaned from customer behaviour to enhance services and target specific groups based on emerging patterns.

Making the most of big data

With this in mind, the notion that 90 per cent of data available has been created in only the last two years is not to be taken lightly. This avalanche of data, with the right analysis, should pave the way for business efficiency savings, improvements in targeted marketing and developments of more streamlined user experiences in every sector. This begins with a more streamlined and quicker approach to business intelligence – with self-service business analytics.

It is no secret that traditional tools rely on professional analysts to interpret data sets through dedicated knowledge of SQL (Structured Query Language) across multiple disparate systems such as OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) or OLAP (Online Analytical Processing), systems that are far from straightforward.

Although these technologies deserve credit for the level of analysis they have provided over the years and have been stretched to an extent, the huge increase in data is showing no signs of slowing. This poses new problems for technologies that were never designed to analyse such a wealth of diverse data sets, as well as most staff being unable to provide detailed technical analysis. This results in a performance bottleneck.

Empowering consumers

However, this all changes when users are given the power. Self-service tools built for more user-friendly data analysis not only allow businesses to save money by avoiding hiring expert analysts or booking expensive training, but improve the quality of analysis. With search-based business intelligence, for example, users can quickly find the data they require through natural language search, drastically improving data access times.

With the barriers of old technology removed, we can expect to herald a new generation of data analysis, one that allows the wealth of data to be instantly viewed and reviewed, allowing experts to focus on less menial tasks. This is all possible due to self-service analytics, which allows more time to be spent improving services instead of waiting for data analysis.

It's clear that the convergence of the data-driven culture of business and the self-service nature of society is a technological evolution that is here to stay. As such, companies and organisations will continue to reap the benefits, identifying endless opportunities to better their business practice before their self-served coffee goes cold.

Greg Richards, Sales and Marketing Director at Connexica