The technology that underpins modern society — from smartphones to social platforms to supply-chain networks to machines/sensors talking to other machines — is driving Big Data, an unparalleled increase in the volume, velocity, and variety of data available. According to IBM, about 90 percent of information in the world today has been created in the past two years — analysts predict such data will grow by at least 40 percent annually going forward. And it’s far more than larger relational databases or data within corporate walls; the data is coming from all over the place. Consider that YouTube users upload 72 hours of video every minute; Facebook users “like” something more than 3 billion times per day; in addition to Wal-Mart handling more than 1 million customer transactions per hour. Each of these produces a digital footprint — and all can be interesting sources of insight — when mined and combined in the right way.
This rapid multidirectional explosion makes clear that new strategic thinking, new management approaches and new tools are needed to capture, analyze and use this data. This roundtable examined the implications of Big Data and how we as corporations address it and capitalize on it. The conversation was less about the traditional BI/BA issues of analyzing big relational databases and more about marrying structured data with unstructured, internal with external, social media with transactional data, all to create real business insights that are more predictive in nature — i.e. more “front windshield” and less “rear-view mirror” — with an emphasis on making the information actionable. Specifically, we addressed such questions as:
- In what areas critical to your business is the amount of data available exploding? How are you addressing that? How do you manage the information across its lifecycle?
- How will an increase in data on customers, sales, inventories and other critical aspects of your business reshape decision-making? Will better decisions come faster?
- How is this newly available data changing your view of the customer? Could the ability to better handle large data sets allow companies to be more closely aligned with the various needs of their key customers? What is the impact of data from social media?
- How are both the infrastructure/systems and talent demands changing to create the capabilities to take advantage of the data that is now or could be captured? Is it a question of cultural change too?
- In what ways might sets of data be combined to render previously unavailable insights? How do we marry structured data with unstructured data? Does the potential benefit of the intertwining of data streams, the mashing of data from various sources, outweigh the difficulties and costs?
- How do enterprises avoid extrapolating incorrect conclusions from data and determine what is a correlation rather than a cause?
- To what degree do you focus first and foremost on the “distinctive capabilities” of the firm that could be enhanced through good data collection, reporting and analytics (as opposed to using intelligence and analytics first where it is easiest to execute)?
- How can you make business intelligence and analytics more predictive — i.e. more “front windshield” and less “rear-view mirror”? Is that possible and what are the keys?
- How tolerant will consumers be if enterprises combine previously separate stacks of data to better predict behavior? Who owns the rights to this information?
Lynn Hemans Director of Industry & Competitive Insights, Taco Bell Corporation.
(l. to r.) Brian Hovey, Executive Director, Global Marketing Operations, Dell; Buddy Lang, General Manager, Facilities Engineering, Chevron Upstream and Gas and G. Dick Kerr, VP, Architecture and Information Management, Eaton Corporation.
Panelists are engaged into the big data discussion, including the panel moderator, John Gallant (second from right.)
Bob Morison from Mindshare Marketing listens to Mark Hillman, SVP of Strategy and Business Development at Compuware Corporation (center). Lynn appears to enjoy his comment.
CDS MBA Fellow, Anirudh Goel T'13 (center back) experiences the big data discussion first-hand.
Geir Ramleth, Senior VP and CIO of the company hostng this roundtable, Bechtel Corporation, shares his thoughts on the topic.