Big data - a bigger business opportunity - Business Works
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Big data - a bigger business opportunity

by Kevin Young, Managing Director, Skillsoft Big data has been one of those topics which plenty of people have talked about, but few are actually talking about the real business benefits of investing in the technology. There is too much focus on marketing analytics and businesses are missing out on a powerful means to drive business intelligence, productivity and customer personalisation, says Kevin Young, MD of Skillsoft.

Big data is becoming increasingly important to a number of industries. James Kobielus, IBM's big data evangelist, for example, has recently blogged about how big data is being used in manufacturing. Its adaptability and power is something which businesses can't afford to ignore. In this article I aim to highlight the three key business benefits of big data, demonstrating why your business needs to embrace the revolution.

Big data increases productivity

Every business leader wants their staff to reach maximum productivity, with new technology regularly implemented for this sole purpose. Introducing a big data system to gather data on the circulation of internal and external information can result in increased productivity. Analysing the information's movements will help to identify bottlenecks in key areas allowing the business, to redistribute the workforce in order to be more efficient. Professor Sandy Pentland of MIT describes in his book, Social Physics how he increased productivity in a call centre, by monitoring interactions and the timing of coffee breaks. Pentland restructured the coffee breaks and was in turn able to enhance the flow of ideas and changing conversations, resulting in higher productivity.

Within a larger business, increasing productivity by this means is very useful, as it is often harder to identify over- and under-performing departments and individuals.

Big data speeds up decision making, allowing for real business intelligence

make decisions instantly, removing the guesswork

Big data has the potential to impact business intelligence, by providing firms with the means to make intelligent moves. Decision making is, of course, down to managers and leaders themselves, however big data equips organisations with the information to make decisions instantly, removing the guesswork.

Having all of the relevant information required to make a decision is critical to good business. The Economist Intelligence Unit recently conducted research into company leaders, revealing 9 out of 10 surveyed believe that decisions made in the last 3 years would have been made better, had all of the required information been available from the start.

Data required for decision making is typically available, but in totally different formats and multiple locations. By utilising big data to drive decision making, data from multiple sources can be made available in one single place and available within a few clicks, providing organisations with the ability to operate with intelligence.

Big data makes customer relationships more personal

The highest-value products are often the most personal. A rare diamond for example is always more expensive than one widely available because it is more personal and unique. Customers are always more appreciative of a personalised service than a general one and marketers are using big data to make their communications more relevant, however marketing is not the only means to utilise big data to personalise a customer relationship.

Big data is allowing the business core, the product or service to be even more personalised. Within the e-learning space at Skillsoft for example, we are using big data to analyse how customers are using learning materials. This information is being directly used to make timely and relevant learning suggestions to users, based on theirs and other users behaviour. Already being used by the likes of Amazon and Netflix, this level of big data insight allows businesses to work out exactly what their customers need and want before they have the chance to ask. Ignoring this could lead to businesses losing their customers to competitors who may provide a better personalised service.

High-level productivity, business intelligence and customer personalisation are three key components to building a successful service. Businesses are typically already gathering data which they can analyse and utilise for insight. For example, we had been collecting data for over 15 years before we began to utilise it for insight and it has had a really positive impact on our business.

Big data is a big business opportunity and ignoring its potential insight can only result in businesses falling behind their competitors in the market.

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