During the past several months, "Big Data" terminology has been tossed around quite a bit in the business world, causing some skeptics to claim these ideas are nothing but buzzwords creating misdirection. Most pundits, however, don't agree with this conclusion, noting that "Big Data" isn't a single technology, strategy, or buzzword, but a major movement taking place in companies of all sizes.
A Forbes report highlighted this theory, noting that Big Data represents new opportunities for organizations to gather, store, and analyze large volumes of digital information to optimize performance, customer service, and other critical operations. Some experts believe the Big Data movement is larger than this because it will essentially change the face of the business world forever.
"Big Data is not a specific technology. Big Data is a movement," IT expert Mayank Bawa told Forbes. "It is about how organizations leverage different kinds of information for different types of purposes to unlock value that was previously unattainable or unknowable."
Bawa noted that the proliferation of sophisticated analytics and other solutions now gives companies the ability to understand information that was previously disregarded because there was no way to comprehend it. This development has ultimately given enterprises the power to augment operations on multiple tiers.
Big Data's reach
Although there are a number of reasons to embrace the Big Data movement, one of the best justifications is that companies can essentially collect information on anyone using the Internet. Forbes noted that Big Data's "invisible hand" enables organizations to acquire new and wider perspectives of their existing clients as well as prospective customers. This awareness provides decision-makers with insight into which direction they should move to engage with the most consumers.
A TechRepublic report highlighted how Big Data can open new doors for organizations, allowing them to pursue innovative endeavors to gain a competitive advantage over firms that continue to regard Big Data as merely a buzzword. If businesses embrace Big Data correctly, they can acquire new understandings of their markets, which will enable executives to optimize operations on multiple levels.
In the end, it is important that decision-makers realize the impact Big Data can have on their company's success. The Big Data phenomenon is a growing movement that will continue to shape the business world, forcing firms to either keep up or risk falling behind.
The use of information is becoming increasingly important across the business world as decision-makers learn to leverage various types of data to drive new strategies. Financial executives in particular are beginning to understand that using new forms of information can promote new cost-saving or revenue-generating opportunities. The only catch is that companies need to manage the complexity that comes along with pursuing these Big Data endeavors.
According to a new American Express and CFO Research study, approximately 96 percent of finance leaders believe they will need to acquire more insight from data in 2014 if they want to succeed. Exactly half of these individuals think that using advanced analytics to take a data-driven approach will allow them to grow and thrive. Interestingly, only 40 percent of respondents said they plan on increasing IT spending by more than 10 percent.
The survey found that mobile and cloud computing investments are slowly increasing, although many companies still face challenges when addressing Big Data. Despite the fact that cloud and Big Data initiatives can improve flexibility, reduce costs, and boost productivity throughout the workplace, only 23 percent of respondents said they have put implementing new business intelligence strategies at the top of their 2014 list of priorities.
Pushing the benefits of Big Data
American Express revealed that 51 percent of finance executives understand that using Big Data analytics can give them a competitive advantage. By understanding internal and external operations, decision-makers can gain greater insight into what processes need improvement and which procedures may not need as much financial backing. As a result, companies can create more accurate portrayals of their budget. However, 40 percent of respondents reported they had no intention of spending money on Big Data technologies in 2014.
A Forbes report highlighted how many top-level executives believe Big Data will win over time because they recognize its potential to predict and augment human performance. However, many decision-makers think the movement is still in an early phase, which is encouraging companies to evaluate initiatives before launching full-scale projects. This could be one reason why many finance leaders are still holding off implementing such projects.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand that if a company isn't ready to become an innovator, it may remain a follower and will likely have a hard time gaining a competitive advantage. If businesses want to be top dogs in their industries, decision-makers need to be bold and experiment with up-and-coming trends, especially Big Data.
Organizations around the world have either been launching or considering deploying Big Data initiatives for the past several years, although they often struggle when identifying who will ultimately be responsible for carrying out and managing the initiatives. Although the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is sometimes considered the primary caretaker for large, unstructured information sets, these individuals will often emphasize the use of technology, not necessarily data.
This conundrum was highlighted in a recent CIO report, which noted that the Big Data landscape is still an open and unfamiliar field for many companies, which means executives can decide how to embrace their initiatives. This finding also suggests that businesses can develop a unique role that is responsible for maintaining and executing a Big Data initiative with no problem, which has led many firms to create a Chief Data Officer (CDO) position.
Decision-makers who are charged with the construction and maintenance of Big Data endeavors must demonstrate that they have a perspective that can see beyond the top layer of technology used. Although it is important that data specialists understand the use of sophisticated applications and solutions, such as scalable cloud computing infrastructures, those individuals must also recognize their organization's overarching long-term needs, CIO noted. This business mindset will help leaders create customized projects that cater to the objectives of their companies.
Getting projects on track with expectation
As the competitive nature of today's business world continues to force organizations to embrace innovative and personalized Big Data initiatives, decision-makers need to take the time to ensure those endeavors are functional. An IBM study found that Big Data programs must be associated with a number of critical responsibilities, but also have the support of C-level executives. Reaching this goal may require building a Chief Data Oficer role or getting the CIO and other top managers on board with the endeavors.
"In order to unlock the value of data, organizations need to identify different C-suite champions to get fully behind the use of analytics," said Fred Balboni of IBM Global Business Services. "Emerging roles like the chief data officer and the chief analytics officer are helping companies build an enterprise-wide data strategy to gain competitive advantage."
In the coming years, companies will find that taking the time to develop robust Big Data projects that are governed by skilled managers will be much more rewarding than simply launching a program with no prior planning.
The inevitable growth of information in the business world is driving the need for better management and evaluation strategies. The presence of Big Data without complementary analytics simply won't provide companies with anything new, and their infrastructure will continue to be weighed down by complex and incomprehensible information.
Organizations are quickly realizing the benefits associated with collecting, storing, analyzing, and using customer data in real time. Doing so often provides a competitive advantage over other companies that haven't taken a similar approach to their information management strategies. If businesses want to leverage data in real time, however, they also need to implement comprehensive analytics -- a task that is more daunting up close than it appears from afar.
This was one of the findings of a new IBM study, which found that a growing number of companies are using analytics to generate revenue, not necessarily cut costs. At the same time, however, a large segment of executives said these endeavors aren't perfect because they tend to lack support from C-level leaders, trust from other workers, and a workforce with the skills needed to make the most of such projects.
"In order to unlock the value of data, organizations need to identify different C-suite champions to get fully behind the use of analytics," said Fred Balboni, global leader and partner of the business analytics and optimization group at IBM Global Business Services.
Unfortunately, IBM noted that only a small portion of top business executives are evangelists for Big Data and analytic strategies. This lack of support often prevents organizations from achieving the customer service, financial, and other operational benefits that are otherwise associated with the complementary projects.
Plans will crumble without faith
IBM revealed that roughly 24 percent of Chief Executive Officers and Chief Operating Officers take on the roles of leading Big Data and analytics processes. Although this percentage is a jump from 2012, it still equates to a much lower level of support than cloud computing, mobile, and other endeavors that are gaining momentum. If organizations don't have executive sponsorship for Big Data, they'll encounter problems with funding, resource management, and overall progress. As a result, companies won't be able to gain the competitive advantages they need to maintain an edge over rival firms.
"It takes the right alignment of strategy, standards, technology, and organizational structure to reap the full potential of what business analytics offers," Balboni said.
Nevertheless, as Big Data continues to make headlines, high-level executives are becoming more familiar and comfortable with the initiatives. A separate CompTIA survey highlighted signs of improvement, noting that the majority of businesses in general are more confident in their Big Data programs than they were a year ago.
Despite this positive outlook, there is still room for progress. In the coming years, large enterprises and small businesses can both experience the advantages offered by Big Data and advanced analytics, including the ability to predict customer behavior, improve customer retention and engagement, and generate stronger revenue streams -- all of which will give firms an edge over organizations that haven't taken a liking to Big Data. To experience these benefits, however, decision-makers need to plan ahead and align their technological endeavors with the perspectives of C-level executives. By taking this approach, companies will improve the odds of experiencing long-term success, allowing them to augment operations in an otherwise increasingly competitive corporate environment.
Although the Big Data movement is highlighted for its abilities to improve operations, augment customer relationships, and even reduce unnecessary costs, the fact is that the phenomenon is disruptive. In other words, many smaller departments within organizations aren't yet backing the projects because they are often perceived as introducing new complications to a process that has already been highly refined.
In many sales and marketing teams, decision-makers and employees are unsure how their use of "Big Data" will augment the way they do business. This trend was highlighted in a recent 1to1 Media report, which noted that many of the concerns executives have the with abundance of new information at their fingertips are associated with having the power to acquire the most appropriate context for that data.
Although marketing teams often equate Big Data to finding a needle in a haystack, the truth is that needle can introduce significant benefits and opportunities to gain competitive advantages over rival firms, 1to1 Media stated. By gathering and analyzing the right information in real time, companies around the world can understand how their prospective and existing clients will react to certain situations, allowing decision-makers to adjust strategies on-the-fly to keep every customer engaged.
The importance of speed
Because the consumer landscape is changing all the time, businesses must learn to gather the most relevant information possible and convert it to useful insight in real time. This need is driving the use of predictive analytics, which is forecast to gain momentum in the future. In fact, a report by MarketsandMarkets stated that the predictive analytics landscape is expected to generate more than $5.2 billion in revenue by 2018, up from $1.7 billion in 2013. This represents a compound annual growth rate of roughly 25 percent, indicating massive adoption rates every year.
Marketing teams will be a major driver behind the use of Big Data and next-generation evaluation solutions because using the appropriate technology will give firms of all sizes unique opportunities to improve operations without impairing their ability to meet the needs of prospective and existing customers. In the coming years, building a Big Data strategy will require organizations to eliminate any silos that would otherwise prevent comprehensive collaborative programs. Decision-makers also need to be on the lookout for new tools that will optimize performance on multiple levels.
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