There’s a Southpark episode where the “underpants gnomes”, a group of bandits intent on stealing underwear, come up with a half-baked, 3 part business plan:

  1. Collect underpants
  2. ?
  3. Profit

Sadly, this sounds similar to the big data marketing strategy for many companies. Collect data -> ??? => Profits. But what is that crucial step 2?

Last week, Oracle released the results of a survey they sponsored – From Overload to Impact:  An Industry Scorecard on Big Data Business Challenges – that looked at big data in large companies. Their survey of 333 executives found that they’re collecting more data than ever before, averaging an increase 86% more as compared with just 2 years ago. And while retail executives give themselves higher marks than other industries, they still lose an estimated 10% of annual revenue due to their current data management process.

The “step 2” prescribed by many ERP and enterprise software vendors still focuses largely on analytics tools and reporting. As we’ve said before, that’s not enough. Executives don’t need more reports that simply contain 86% more data points in the charts they had 2 years ago. They need speed and results. According to the Wall Street Journal coverage of the survey, about 1/3 of respondents said they lack timely access to information gleaned from big data and must reply on IT managers to compile it. But even if they get that situation sorted out (and that’s BIG if), that’s still not “step 2”. That critical step for a big data driven retailer looking to act in real-time requires a Big Data App.

In fact, how about we “big data gnomes” employ this 3 part plan:

  1. Create great content
  2. Use BDA (big data app)
  3. Profits

Although that plan wouldn’t work for those who steal underpants, it could certainly help those who sell it.