2015 will be the year of the Big Data revolution, when it crosses over from being the preserve of the experts to a mainstream issue for every business. It’s the subject being discussed in every boardroom and written about in every business journal.
It’s a game-changer for companies, such as Amazon, with access to unimaginable amounts of data – they will soon be able to predict what you’ll buy accurately enough to despatch it before you’ve even bought it – but many business leaders feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the subject. They realise the use of data and analytics offers huge opportunities for their business, but have no idea where to start or how to manage the sheer scale of information at their disposal.
That’s the argument of big data expert and best-selling author, Bernard Marr, who helps leading international brands develop their analytics strategies. His clients include the likes of Microsoft, Mars and Orange, as well as the Bank of England, the NHS and the Ministry of Defence.
But his new book on Big Data is just as relevant to the smallest start-up as a global giant because he believes any company can transform its business, irrespective of how much, or little, data it has at its disposal.
It’s a very practical, accessible guide that any manager or business owner can learn from. It’s a book for the layman, not just the big data specialist. The purpose of the book is to explain what Big Data is in very simple terms so anyone can understand how to use it.
What is Big Data? Marr defines it as “the idea that everything we do is increasingly leaving a digital trace which we can use and analyse to become smarter.” He says the driving forces are access to ever-increasing volumes of data and an ever-increasing technological capability to mine the data for commercial insights.
But, according to Marr, most businesses make the mistake of starting with data, instead of starting with strategy. The key is to first understand your business objectives and then find the data that will help you answer your key strategic questions.
He explains how to use his Smart model: Start with Strategy, Measure Metrics and Data, Apply Analytics, Report Results, Transform Business. Creating a strategy board allows you to identify the relevant data, but the mistake many companies make is to bury the results in impenetrable 50-page reports that no-one reads rather than presenting them in accessible info-graphics. His guide to data visualisation is designed to empower CEOs and business owners; they need to take control of the data, not just leave it to the data scientists.
Marr, who is chief executive of the Advanced Performance Institute, argues that companies which embrace the Big Data revolution – or Smart Data, as he prefers to call it – will wrong-foot their rivals. He gives practical examples of the work he has done with companies, helping them find the right data to solve their business problems. Working with a small fashion retail company, which wanted to increase sales but lacked smart data, he devised a series of smart questions: How many people pass your shops? How many stop to look in the window and for how long? How many come into the shop and how many of those buy?
By installing a device into the shop windows that tracked cell phone signals, they discovered how many people were stopping and how many of those were coming in. By combining that with transaction data, they could measure the conversion ratio and test which window displays and offers were most successful in increasing conversion rates.
Practical examples like this make the book an invaluable guide for the business leader, or frontline manager, just as much as the data scientist. But it will also help data scientists explain the relevance of what they do, allowing them to think about the strategic application of their work. Henrik von Scheel, an advisory board member at Google, calls the book: “The go-to-guide on data for 2015”.
Marr’s message is clear: successful companies understand where their customers are, what they are doing and where are they going. Companies that won’t embrace the smart revolution will be left behind.
To celebrate the launch of this new book you can now get a second, supplementary case study book, for free. Here’s how it works…. If you order a copy of the book (paperback or Kindle) from Amazon on or before Friday, March 21th and send a screen shot of your order confirmation to [email protected] the publisher will send you a free and exclusive book of case studies – a 32 page e-book showcasing some of the best uses of big data by companies all over the world. You’ll learn how each company has implemented their big data strategy and the results it has brought.
by Bernard Marr (Wiley)
You can read a free sample chapter here.