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Analytics for Human Information: The New Top Ten Myths of Big Data - Myth #7

ChrisSurdak ‎12-05-2013 07:00 AM - edited ‎02-19-2015 01:38 PM

In Myth #6 I discussed the importance of realigning your organization’s processes and procedures so that they can operate at the speed of the insights created by your Big Data efforts.  I further implied that this will not be easy to accomplish, because you’re likely talking about an increase in process velocity of an order of magnitude or two.  I mentioned that there was an approach that your organization could take to help make this reengineering possible, and that is the topic of Myth #7, so let’s get to it.


Big Data Myth #7: Big Data is About Analyzing Customers



The vast majority of discussion regarding the value of Big Data seems to be customer-centric.  That is, the focus of the analytics, and the resulting business value, seems to be upon customers; almost myopically so. 


This isn’t too surprising for a variety of reasons.  First, there is a strong connection between customer behavior and company revenues, and revenues are king these days.  Second, the budget dollars for most Big Data efforts seem to be in the hands of marketing types, who by their very nature focus upon customers.  Third, customer data is readily available from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, etc., and these data streams are rich with new insights, details, and so on which marketers love to chew on. Finally, I suspect that part of the focus upon customers in Big Data is a bit voyeuristic.  After all, it is way more interesting for most of us to nose into other peoples’ business, rather than our own.


However, as I pointed out in Myth #6, there is little or no value in understanding customers intimately if you cannot act upon that insight. To do so, you need to reengineer and reorient your internal processes so that they can do this.  Hence, I would argue that it may be even more important to use Big Data tools, techniques and data in order to drive this internal transformation BEFORE you get too deep into customer analytics.  Only then will you be able to monetize the insights that you gain from a customer-focus.


Temet Nosce, or Know Thyself


In order to recast your organization as a data-enabled, customer-centric new-age powerhouse you need to substantially rework your business processes. To do this effectively you need data, lots and lots of data.  Most organizations have plenty of this data within their core IT systems.  Our ERP, CRM, SCM, and other corporate systems hold a vast array of information regarding our business processes, and this data is typically analyzed in order to drive process improvements.  Arguably, there is not a lot more insight to be gained from these systems. To gain new insights and new value, we need to look elsewhere.


That elsewhere is inside of our other corporate communication tools, namely email.  When I’m at work and I’m trying to complete a certain task I might log into any one of dozens of different systems.  Those systems maintain data related to the transaction, and we analyze that data to monitor process performance.  But, if I’m not happy with how that process was executed, or with how the process is managed, how easy it is to complete the task, etc., I’m likely emailing somebody with that feedback.  I might drop a note to my manager complaining about how long it takes to complete a task, the number of steps involved, the appropriateness of the various business rules, etc.  This qualitative feedback about processes is critical for finding targets for improvement, but this data never finds its way into the systems being discussed, it’s all in email.


So, if I use Big Data techniques against internal data, specifically email, then I can begin to get a better understanding of what does and does not work in my organization, and I can begin to target areas for improvement that might significantly impact my business’ performance.  In this way, I can drive out time, cost and inefficiency from these corporate processes, allowing me to be better prepared to serve customers more quickly and more effectively as I begin to analyze them, as well.


Certainly customer-focused Big Data efforts get the lion’s share of chatter and funding these days.  However I would argue that the internal focus to which I am referring is more important and potentially more valuable. By properly reengineering your internal organization you will be better able to respond to customer insights that you gain from analyzing their data, allowing you to act at the speed of insight. 


Click below to continue reading about The New Top Ten Myths of Big Data



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About the Author


Chris Surdak is a Subject Matter Expert on Information Governance, analytics and eDiscovery for HP Autonomy. He has over 20 years of consulting and technology experience, and holds a Juris Doctor from Taft University, an MS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a CISSP Master's Certificate from Villanova and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State. Chris is author of the Big Data strategy book, "Data Crush," which was recently nominated as International Book of the Year for 2014, by GetAbstract. Chris is also contributing editor and columnist for European Business Review magazine.

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