Big Data is apparently the most overused corporate buzzword of the year 2013. In an analysis of 5000 conference call transcripts, Factset found that the term ‘big data’ was mentioned in 841 corporate calls, up 43% from the previous year’s figure of 589. Svetlana Sicular of Gartner suggests that big data was at the peak of inflated expectations in 2013 and is falling into the trough of disillusionment in Gartner’s hype cycle (see figure on the left). But we believe that businesses so far (especially in the year 2013) have been testing out big data to measure real business value and are now equipped to prove the business case behind adopting big data at a large scale. The following steps can help any business in carefully traversing the path of big data adoption and equip them with a predictable road map to measurable outcomes.
Identify the business challenges
Using big data without concrete business problems is like sailing without a compass. It’s recommended to start with identifying the business problems at hand where additional data can be useful either by improving the existing processes, reducing costs or improving productivity. In order to put an effective big data strategy in place, decision-makers should first answer this question: What is it that we cannot do without big data, and how is that affecting us?
Prioritize the topmost business problems
Once you’ve identified the biggest problems that can be solved using big data, figure out the order in which you plan to tackle these problems. Big data is not the answer for every other business need. Identify the three or four biggest challenges that big data can help you solve so that you easily avoid the trap of trying to achieve everything and then ending up sub par.
Find relevant data sources for your business
Involve the business
Start small, grow big
Know what data to use and what to exclude
Following the above steps will provide a degree of cohesion to your big data implementation strategy and help you in starting out with big data adoption. A successful big data strategy is all about asking the right questions in the context of your business challenges, and then following iterations to derive key insights regarding what is most useful to your business. As the world of big data is evolving, its vital to maintain flexibility at your end, by remaining fluid to the changing outside dynamics. Approach big data with an open mind, embracing the new, undiscovered insights that big data may reveal about your business.