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How big data is driving businesses to success

Big data is proving to be a crucial part of business growth thus far, transforming businesses and offering opportunities for insights like never before. In a global race, increasingly dominated by the fastest players, data is the key to building a more agile, responsive, and productive business. So it’s no surprise that a recent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne revealed that 86 per cent of organisations are already using some form of big data analytics, with a further 11 per cent planning to adopt it as a business tool in the future.

This confirms that soon, big data will play an integral role in the operations of every organisation in the world; it is no longer an opportunity, it’s a necessity. Organisations are investing considerable amounts of time and money into analytics services. From helping banks track real-time trends to offering retailers the insights that help them better understand consumers’ shopping habits, analytics can unlock new opportunities across every industry. Furthermore, this survey confirms my experience that organisations are now more receptive to new technologies that build on big data analytics infrastructure and methodologies.

When we look at big data implementation, the results suggest the US is leading the way while the UK is still playing catch up with only 23 per cent of UK organisations using big data, compared to 56 per cent in the US. However this is set to change as the UK looks set to make significant strides in the future, with more than half already employing big data in pockets of their organisation and 16 per cent stating they have plans in place to incorporate big data into their strategies.

Industries that are adopting and benefiting from big data

Financial services is an industry that could benefit most from big data analytics. Although often seen as conservative, banks are starting to take note of the transformational effect big data analysis could have for the industry. In contrast to other emerging technologies, banks have bought into big data analytics, with an above average response of 67 per cent citing it as a necessity to stay competitive. It may come as no surprise that organisations are primarily viewing the opportunities of big data as coming from trend analysis (67 per cent), but banks value real time analysis (70 per cent) as they move from the laborious end of day number crunching of the past, to identifying risk and opportunity as it happens.

Financial institutions are under increasing pressure to close the gap between the experiences they provide and what consumers have come to expect. More than any other industry, knowledge can provide a competitive edge that can drive millions in added revenue. For the financial sector, big data is an important part of meeting an increasing client demand for a faster and more accurate service. Banks, especially, have been forced to take their cue from customers, as well as learning from other industries, such as media, mobile and retail, and are setting expectations based on their experiences in those other industries.

The manufacturing industry shares a similar view on the importance of big data, with 60 per cent agreeing that big data analytics is a necessity. IT industry folks were focussed on the significant cost reductions of modern data architectures, with 80 per cent reflecting their awareness of licensing and commodity hardware savings.

Retail pioneers such as Amazon are known to benefit from big data, however a cross section of retailers were shown to be lagging behind with only 29 per cent of retailers using big data to support their existing strategies. That being said, I’d suggest drawing a clear line between aspiration and implementation as we are increasingly seeing retailers implement big data analysis, as it brings valuable insights to trigger business growth. These benefits include insights on user journeys, industry forecasts and customer records to predict demand, pinpoint customers, optimise pricing, and monitor real-time trends.

Harnessing new technologies

Over the next decade we will see big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence being integrated seamlessly into the structure of many different organisations.

Businesses are discovering that when they take the plunge and implement machine learning techniques they can access a wealth of insights in a short period of time, moving from understanding what customers are doing to why. Machine learning is a new concept for many businesses, but if properly applied it has huge potential to address real-world business problems. One of its main benefits is the ability to analyse large amounts of data at a speed and efficiency that would otherwise require a large team of humans. Having seen the outcomes clients can achieve, I am delighted to find that these benefits are already being recognised by organisations globally with 62 per cent of respondents expecting to implement machine learning for business intelligence within the next two years. This is an extremely positive response considering machine learning technologies only entered the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2015. 

Next steps for businesses

To become a big player in the big data game, an organisation needs to take three steps towards big data adoption maturity. The first relates to the data itself: make sure your information is collected and stored in a format that allows for easy access and query (i.e. Data Lake). Most large companies already have this - in fact, they generally have more than they can use.

The second is uncovering business value from data with the help of business intelligence and data visualisation. Beneficiaries of this analytics can be both - customers and internal corporate users. Modern UX design and mobile technologies allow for creating effective systems of engagements, and in today’s corporate world a corporate user demands the same experience as an external user.

And the third step, advanced analytics, elevates organisation’s competitive advantage to the next level by boosting user business efficiency in the same way that an exoskeleton suite intensifies physical strength.

From the technology perspective both proprietary and open-source tools and platforms are widely available these days - however you need experts capable of putting them to work. Big Data analytics requires staff with state-of-the-art skills in data architecture, technologies, and data science. So, selecting a proven partner in corporate Big Data journey is one of the key success elements.

Overall, the future of big data applications looks bright. From data-driven marketing to guiding smart city operations, big data is fuelling innovation, efficiencies, and new revenue opportunities for every type of organisation.

Serge Haziyev is a VP Technology Services Group at SoftServe. Serge has more than 18 years' experience in designing, evaluating and modernising large scale software architectures in various technology domains for both Fortune 100 and startups.