Big data, big deal?

Big Data is a common term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of both structured and unstructured data. What does this mean for your organisation and how can this proliferation of data be harnessed to add value for your business?

Data on its own has limited value, it needs to be transformed into information that can be used to assist business decision making. This is typically achieved by a combination of business knowledge, technology and data management experience. Many organisations typically don’t have the necessary skills in house to cover all these areas. 

So, where should you start with Big Data? 

Start small

The hardest decision is to decide where to start. There will be many challenges facing a business so focus on a single key area; use this to prove the concept of using data to analyse and resolve a specific business challenge. Rather than focusing on Big Data at this stage, use little data to show the power of data analytics in assisting decision making. 

Remember that although you start small, don’t constrain yourself for the future. Select a flexible solution that can grow as you obtain experience of data analytics and transforming this into business information.

Management buy-in

Big Data sounds like an IT initiative; however, this must be a business-led programme. It’s critical to obtain buy-in from the management team of the area of interest so that they sponsor the initiative and allocate the necessary resources to work on it.

Clearly define deliverables 

With the appropriate business sponsorship in place, involve the relevant business resources to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be produced. The business team must clearly define the outputs and should include: defining the KPIs, what the KPIs will be used for, who will receive the information, and its frequency. 

IT do have a key role in delivery as they need to be able to understand the KPI information to identify the data source, determine where it is stored, how it will be transformed into information and the delivery mechanism.

Align with business processes 

Data (whether Big or little) is produced from a business process, so should not be considered in isolation. Business processes must be aligned with the KPIs that have to be delivered since, ultimately, the accuracy and usefulness of the KPIs produced will be determined by the effectiveness of the business process that produces the underlying data. 

A consideration here is that although the initiative started as delivering KPIs, it will typically highlight process inefficiencies and data clean-up requirements. Be prepared to review the business processes in place and consider ways to improve / automate key steps to enhance data accuracy for the ultimate KPI delivery. 

In summary

Get success from a little data and plan for a Big(ger) Data future.

The key steps to success from this initial initiative are:

  • prove the benefits within the business area selected for analysis;
  • share the benefits of this little data initiative with other teams; and
  • leverage the initial investment and capabilities built to expand into new areas of interest.

How can RSM Help? 

RSM has an experienced team who work closely with clients guiding them through the key steps towards Big Data adoption. To find out more about how your data can be harnessed to add value and enhance business decision making please get in touch with Chris Knowles.