Managing Big Data: The Challenge of Creating Business Value

By Dan Sytsma, President, Melillo Consulting

Enterprises today are well aware of the enormous potential of Big Data, but many continue to struggle with the organization, administration and governance of their fast- growing and complex data sets. Companies must invest in effective Big Data management strategies to understand and organize the data they have amassed and then analyze it to provide themselves a competitive edge.

In New Vantage's fifth Big Data Executive survey, C-level executives from 50 different firms were asked if their Big Data investments were “generating tangible, measurable business value” for their organizations. What they learned:

  • 48 percent of the executives reported that their organizations have received measurable benefits from their Big Data initiatives.
  • 80 percent of executives indicated that their Big Data investments were successful.
  • 21 percent of the survey participants said their Big Data initiatives were “disruptive or transformational for their firms.”

However, not all the news was rosy: 53 percent of executives said that organizational impediments, such as, “lack of organizational alignment, lack of middle management adoption and a lack of a coherent data strategy” among other issues, prevented broad business adoption of Big Data initiatives.

A straightforward approach to gathering and analyzing data is important, as the information gathered can potentially be game-changing for companies. Data can help identify new revenue streams, zero in on loyalty factors and determine methods of cost reduction. Big data’s first big mark on business has been the creation of more targeted marketing. Big data helps businesses to predict what their customers will want. But, for all its potential, big data also has its challenges.

Big Data Challenges

First, departments don't always communicate well with each other, and IT must be in alignment with the business owners of the data project. When IT is expecting one set of results and the owners are looking forward to another, the project is doomed. For example, marketing wants to use websites and social networks data for lead generation, yet it hasn't discussed with IT how the data can be stored and manipulated. The only way for the plan to succeed is for the two teams to share goals, timelines and processes so the information can be meaningfully presented in a way that will provide solid business results.

Second, let's talk about those solid business results. Turns out, New Vantage's survey data revealed that less than half of Big Data initiatives have achieved measurable results. When the use cases are not being defined from a customer perspective with specific deliverables, then there's a lot of finger-pointing that happens in organizations and those projects tend to fail. It's critical that the reason for the project is spelled out, as well as the desired result.

Third, improving those success rates may be one of IT’s and businesses’ greatest trials. The million-dollar question is: “How do I really harness the big data that I have in my company?” Data is coming from multiple sources, such as video data and the Internet of Things. And while the amount of data can be overwhelming, they understand the potential benefits of harnessing the collected information appropriately: Data can reduce complexity and increase the revenue stream.

Despite the challenges, collection of data and subsequent analysis and use of the information continue to grow at an impressive rate. Forrester has reported that organizations will increase their data by 50 percent this year and that overall corporate data will grow by an astounding 94 percent, database systems will grow by 97 percent, and backups for disaster recovery and business continuity will expand by 89 percent.

Those numbers are staggering and illustrate the huge challenges that companies are facing today. Customers are looking for ways to analyze the data, on a much more real-time basis and really make better and quicker decisions to support the environment, particularly in the area of the IoT and security, where customers have made significant investments. It's not unusual to walk into a customer -- of any size -- that could have anywhere from 20 to 50 different security tools helping them to keep their IT environment secure from threats. Tools such as Splunk help to digest all that information and provide clarity to what the data is really trying to provide to customers. As businesses determine the value of the data, and appreciated how it can predict future trends, revenue growth streams etc., such tools will become more vital to make sense of the ever-increasing pools of data.

(NEXT: Managing Big Data: Assembling Your Big Data Toolkit & Team)

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