Everyone in the data and analytic profession knows the old adages, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”….and, that data without the benefit of analytics….is just that….”data.” Decisions based on the thoughtful analysis of data are always better than decisions based purely on “softer” factors such as intuition or gut feeling. Those that invest in the appropriate resources to harness the power of the “big data” movement, by harvesting insights and intelligence from that data, will create a sustainable advantage in the marketplace.
The volume and variety of the data that exists, plus the rate at which it is being created, is difficult to wrap one’s head around. But….for those companies that can…..the decisions they make based on the insights derived via the robust analytics they apply to that data, will be more precise, insightful and actionable relative to their competitors that do not. It is these data-driven, analytic companies that will be the leaders in the marketplace and have the potential to be more profitable then they ever have been!
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the question was posed: “Where’s the evidence that using big data intelligently will improve business performance?” In summary, executives from 330 public North American companies were interviewed and various data analyzed. Not surprisingly, those companies that characterized themselves as “data-driven” companies were stronger performers relative to companies that did not. Specifically, corporations in the top third of their respective industries that were “data-driven” were both more productive and more profitable.
But, how do these companies fully exploit the plethora of data that is being accumulated – much of it highly unstructured? What types of resources are needed? Those are really the critical questions! It is one thing to be “data-driven” but you also must be “analytically-driven.” After all, data without the benefit of analytics……is again…..just data.
Enter the “data scientist” – typically highly trained and skilled analysts with backgrounds in statistics, mathematics, and/or economics. These individuals need to be intensely curious and tenacious, as it is these characteristics that enable these individuals to immerse themselves in what can be an overwhelming amount of data, navigate through it, organize it, aggregate it, join it with other disparate sources, summarize it, and ultimately get it to a state whereby nuggets of insightful, data-driven “gold” can be mined.
Exciting times ahead to be sure, as companies like Merkle continue to identify new, valuable sources of data and hire AND grow data scientists to turn that data into gold. These are the companies that will gain sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace in the decades to come. It’s just NOT about the data, people....it’s about the data AND the analytics!
 Andrew McAfee, A and Brynjolfsson, E. Big Data: The Management Revolution. Harvard Business Review. October 2012.