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Five Essential Questions To Answer So You Can Put Big Data To Work

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Over the past few months, I’ve used this space to explore some of the different ways big data analytics is beginning to impact business. Forward-thinking organizations are embracing these opportunities and learning how to use big data not only to drive revenue, but also to learn, to innovate and to create a better world.

Based on these use cases, new business models are emerging, and as Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research sees it, three main approaches now stand out. “The first focuses on using data to create differentiated offerings,” he writes at Harvard Business Review. “The second involves brokering this information. The third is about building networks to deliver data where it’s needed, when it’s needed.” (Bold-face mine.)

Which of these big data models would best fit your business? How can you use what others have learned –and modeled –to start putting big data to work for you? Before you jump ahead with your responses, I’m writing to today to remind you to take a step back and consider the landscape at a more fundamental level. If you’re considering a big data initiative, proceed thoughtfully, and only after you know the answers to these five essential questions:

1. What are your objectives? Think about what you need big data to do. Marketing organizations may want to improve the customer experience. The IT shop may be focused on technology business management. You need to create a clear view of what it is you are trying to achieve.

2. What systems are currently in place? Take inventory of your data assets. Determine how you are collecting and analyzing data today. What’s working? What isn’t?

3. What’s missing for you to reach your objectives? Once you have a vision and an understanding of current systems, you should be able to identify the gaps preventing you from reaching your goals. Do you need new tools, processes, skills, resources . . . or a combination of all four?

4. How can you acquire what’s missing and integrate it into current systems? Prioritize your wish list based on what will drive the most business benefit. It’s likely you’ll have to implement a solution in stages, so plan for a step-by-step approach, proving wins along the way.

5. How will you monitor results and continue to evolve as big data changes? Your wins will require proof, and on-going measurement will enable data-driven insights about your progress. Most of all, stay proactive. Your business objectives may change. Most assuredly, technology and big data itself will change. You’ll need to adapt your approaches accordingly.

The era of big data is here. It’s an exciting time, because, as I’ve said before, big data offers us opportunities to learn, to innovate and to do more than we ever thought possible. If you approach these opportunities thoughtfully and plan your strategy carefully –as I’ve outlined above –I have no doubt that big data can help you create value and incredible success.

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