Everywhere you turn today it seems like someone is hawking something to do with big data—today’s corporate “must have”. It seems that all the buzz and hype usually gets down to some very tactical application/outcome which sounds an awful lot like the “must have” of the 1990’s…CRM. Perhaps big data is the son of CRM, enhanced to accommodate new data streams from the Internet world. (Big data equals big headache for executives.)
Big data has several flavors of definition which normally end up something like the following: unstructured and multi-structured digital information usually resulting from transactions/interactions between humans and machines via online web applications, social network data and other data such as Point of sale (POS). Not much different from CRM except that the digital is now including the online world and as a result requires new software and hardware to store and analyze the vast virtual data streams.
Even though business executives may have high hopes for capitalizing on big data for strategic decision making, the majority of applications/outcomes being developed seem to focus on a much narrower tactical view such as the optimization of a digital ad campaign via a digital marketing platform (DMP). These outcomes tend to be machine to machine tactics devoid of humans and based upon algorithms for digital message optimization so there is no thinking involved (i.e. serving an ad online).
The needs of the business which include the strategic issues required to run an organization aren’t usually part of the big data discussions and because of this the relevant questions aren’t asked when the systems are developed. To begin with, the questions being framed determine the outcomes. Strategic questions drive strategic outcomes and tactical questions drive tactical outcomes such as optimizing digital ad campaigns.
Bringing big data to the C-Suite
There are several strategic business issues that may be greatly improved and which could help the C-Suite make better decisions overseeing the direction of the entire organization. Issues such as managing growth, better forecasting of sales, more detailed understanding of competitors and the impact of the economy on customers to name a few. Each of these issues seems to have far more importance on the success of an organization than does the automated serving of online advertising or data mining results from a digital ad campaign. After all, advertising expenditures for retail stores represent a ratio to sales of approx. 1.2% and, online comprises only about .1% of that 1.2%.
One could argue that if a retailer knew they were going to have a bad holiday season BEFORE the season began that they could intervene and mitigate the potential iceberg facing them. Having a broader focused decision system designed for the C-Suite could provide updated insights via key strategic areas which would allow for monitoring progress of strategies and the ability to tweak when weakness is discovered. For years, Prosper Insights and Analytics™ has been providing the retail market, via the NRF, advanced warnings on all of the major holidays and spending expectations. In addition, direct warnings on specific retailer spending forecasts have been given through other forums such as the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer and Retail Conference.
It may be time to look past the frenzy of digital marketing outcomes which have been labeled “big data” and expand the concept to include simple-to-use, strategic decision making outcomes designed for the C-Suite. It will require a broader view of issues and the integration of many more data sources most of which are external to an organization and can be connected with the online data streams. The result can be intuitive decision making applications that provide answers to strategic issues allowing executives to make better decisions. A sample of these includes the Prosper Auto Outlook and the Retail Composite Spending Score and 90 Day Sales Outlook.
Gary Drenik is CEO of Prosper Insights & Analytics, a company that prides itself on turning data into solutions. www.ProsperDiscovery.com