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Data: It’s not the length; it’s the width that matters!

It’s time to forget the ‘vertical’ perception of Big Data, i.e. vast volumes and ROWSof data, and start to think about the ‘horizontal’ reality and true power of data. TheCOLUMNS of rich, informative data is where your real value lies and where truly smart decisions will be made.

Granted, extensive columns of data will get unmanageable to work with. But this is where data analytics can help us get clever and where the power of “Horizontal Big Data” really lies.

Horizontal data is not a new concept. But arguably it is misunderstood and undervalued.


“Big data” is just a perception


Let’s all agree that “Big data” is just a perception - meaning different things to different individuals.


It’s typically defined as datasets which have grown so large that they become unmanageable to work with. As a marketer, should someone give me a spread sheet of 2,000 records, I might consider this Big Data. Give 200,000 records to a data analyst to manipulate and it would barely break their stride.

Data is critical for, and empowers all functions of, our operation, from sales and marketing, to finance and HR. We all rely on the data we have at our disposal, and use this to retrospectively create and analyse results, or make predictions for our future business moves. This is standard practice and where the concept of Big Data becomes cloudy.

The value of data, and where Big Data can actually become a meaningful statement in business would be where this data can be enriched – horizontally expanding our information and insight – to give depth, power, colour and true value to our data.


A very simple example:

Run a report from a CRM system on your customer base today and we can gain a lot of information and insight into our install base: What is our average deal size? Sales team’s typical sales cycles? Which marketing activity generated the best leads and ROI? This is all valuable information to help understand target audiences, demographics, and important insight to help shape future marketing and sales activity – ultimately driving revenue.


We may have 200,000 customers: Are we now managing Big Data?

Not at all.

The information extracted from our CMS (and arguably other internal systems) barely scratches the surface of “Big”.

To really drag ourselves kicking and screaming into the world of Big Data, we need to enrich with external data to really be able to understand, ‘slice and dice’, and make decisive, and truly intelligent, decisions about future plans.

For example, enriching data with financial information allows us to understand if economic conditions affect sales cycles. Previously we might have been going on gut-feel to understand whether a deal closed inside 6 months in APAC was actually a success, or a failure.

However, this enrichment isn’t limited to one area: Social enrichment will give remarkable clarity into how we can effectively market our customer base. Enriching data with contact information, as well as company information, allows for detailed profiling of individuals within their business. But understanding their social activity on Twitter or LinkedIn added new clarity into their market influence? Running a joint case study with a client who is highly socially active, from a corporate and personal perspective, will mean far greater exposure to the market than committing to the same exercise with a client with limited social media presence.

When we’re talking 200,000 clients – suddenly running this activity is time consuming - if not impossible.

Rich data will drive ‘rich’ reward

Consider your data: Would enrichment provide you with further insight and improved opportunity to make better decisions? I challenge you to say “no” in response.


Even the most basic, horizontal enrichment to your data will make a dramatic impact to your role and your organisation moving forward.

As volumes of data increase, with terabytes of information are being created daily, we need to be able to manage this now.

Can we honestly say we’re taking advantage of this rich and important data to drive value back to our business?

The perception of Big Data certainly comes with baggage and has been something of an expletive in business circles; but let’s agree not to see Big Data negatively.

Consider Big Data as a proactive task of enrichment – a horizontal approach to our data – and we’re into a whole new world of insight, and improved decision making, and suddenly, once again, size does become important!

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Tags: Analytics, Big, Cleansing, Data, Enrichment, Integration, Visualisation

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