It’s time to wake up to the big data goldmine

There is no excuse for any modern business to operate without a big data strategy.

There is no excuse for any modern business to operate without a big data strategy. We have moved beyond discussions about unmanageable data volumes to a time where companies can easily adopt a method to analyse and garner insights from their data to make more informed business decisions.

So, in a world where organisations can better predict the future and prescribe solutions for their customers, products and services, why would they go at it blindly? Not only does it sound risky, but at a time when businesses can employ a tailor-made big data strategy, it borders on irresponsible.

However, laying the foundations that enable successful implementation of complex programmes remain the key: producing a business objective-driven strategy and roadmap coupled up with the assessment of big data capabilities in-house. With the foundations in place, businesses can start to embrace the potential of their data and eagerly look to capitalise on the benefits it can deliver to drive their businesses forward - faster, further, and more competitively.

Yet, despite the tremendous strides made in the adoption of big data, many private and public sector organisations are still playing catch-up. Although it has become one of the most powerful phenomena in an increasingly competitive market, many are only just waking up to the realisation that data is like digging into a goldmine - an extremely valuable asset that needs simultaneously protecting and exploiting.

But, done correctly, it can have a hugely positive effect across the entire business. To give you an example, here are five real-world examples of key areas where big data has delivered real business impact:


Businesses looking at operational improvement should look no further. From decision-making to innovation, virtually every area of a business can be improved significantly through the adoption of data management. Increased informational transparency, improved managerial decision-making, more accurate customer analysis, risk minimisation, product development and supply chain efficiencies - the list goes on.

However, even if a business recognises the benefits, it must ensure it has a scalable data lake equipped to respond appropriately to the changing nature of how the business is using data. Companies need to understand that how they utilise data today and in the future will have a direct impact on realising the wider business needs and goals. Amazon, one of the early adopters in the use of data analytics, was the first company to have patented the shipping of goods before an order has even been placed to increase delivery efficiency and cost savings.

The e-commerce giant is also exploring the use of drones as means of delivering smaller goods by dropping them into gardens, thus improving the effectiveness of logistics.

Customer Experience

The fundamentals of business haven’t changed - it’s still about meeting customer needs and managing the increasing pressure of being able to respond to them in real-time. The more useful information businesses have to facilitate this through analytics and data science, the better.

Luckily, there is more information available than ever before. Data mined from websites and social media, to name a few sources, can be used to develop 360-degree view of consumer behaviour and patterns. However, the information is only useful if the data is collected, collated and analysed through the lens of the wider business strategy. If done correctly, big data will tell you more about your customers than you ever thought possible.

For example, the Burberry Group is using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in its stores to create a richer shopping experience by showing a video of how the item was made and offering other products complementary to it in order to boost sales.

Business Development

Using big data to the best of its potential requires adopting a company-wide approach - not just in one or two areas that are of strategic value to the business. The reality of today is the emergence of big data provides a competitive advantage for those businesses engaging with it properly.

In fact, those that harness big data faster than their competitors will have almost an unfair advantage. According to a report published by The McKinsey Global Institute (The opportunities in business and government of using big data), the use of big data is becoming a key way for leading companies to outperform their peers. It estimates that for example, a retailer embracing big data has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60 per cent’.

But, it is not limited to this sector, there are other tangible examples across all industries from financial services to manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, logistics and public sector. When it comes to improving performance, nowhere was this more prevalent that in the German FIFA World Cup Win. Germany analysed video data helping to reduce the average possession time from 3.4 seconds to 1.1 seconds. That made all the difference when they defeated Argentina in the final.

The Bottom Line

All in all, when used and analysed properly, data from various sources can solve a number of business challenges that companies face. Experts advise automating data collection, generating insights out of acquired information and taking relevant actions that can lead to desired outcomes.

However, when dealing with enormous sets of data, there’s a risk of being caught out by it unless you have a plan for managing and monetising your data. Therefore, creating a short and long term strategy aligned and being flexible with the evolving is key to a successful implementation.


In many cases, the adoption of big data still needs driving through - ideally by having people around the boardroom table that are tuned-in to its potential. This has led to the rise of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) and most recently to CAO (Chief Analytics Officer) - the ones who bring together the technology and business strategy, who understand the value big data adoption can generate and is capable of articulating its benefits to the wider company and most importantly to the board holding the budgets.

These internal evangelists and experts of the data world understand that tomorrow’s leaders will take a role in shaping and directing big data projects. They are the force to champion the invaluable cause, its relevancy to the wider business, the business returns and understand the parameters needed for success.

Even President Obama understands its value. Big data analytics was the president’s go-to tool to beat the competition, enabling insights to be gained on what people were discussing and a platform to respond to their concerns in real time.If you do not have a big data strategy in place, now is the time to make the move.

It can fundamentally change the way your organisation runs for the better and, regardless of your sector or industry, is able to add value across the business, generate new revenues and place you ahead of your competition. So what’s stopping you?

Mike Merritt-Holmes, VP Services, UK & Ireland at Think Big

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