How Big Data is Changing the Way We Do Business
While technology is one of the main drivers behind the global transformation into the digital age, there is one resource that many businesses continue to overlook, but which has been called “more valuable than oil” by several leading business analysts. This resource is big data.
What is Big Data?
While most people may have heard the term big data, not many understand what is meant by the term or why it is important. Big data is a term used to describe sets of information that are still expanding. The term big data also includes variables relating to data such as the volume of data available, how quickly new data are being created, and the scope or variety of data points that are covered.
While all businesses collect data of some kind, thanks to the world heading more and more into the digital realm, there are unprecedented volumes of data collected daily. With so much more data available to businesses relating to their customers, potential customers, their opposition, and more, big data and the analytics behind it are that much more important for businesses to leverage to achieve success.
What Data is Considered Big Data?
Big data encompasses two kinds of information: structured and unstructured data.
Structured data is data that has already been stored and managed in databases and spreadsheets. This kind of data is easy to digest and decipher. This type of information includes credit card numbers, geolocation data, stock information, and more.
Unstructured data encompasses data that is unorganized and that needs to be analyzed to be useful. This includes data collected from social media sources, emails, data that is gathered from questionnaires, electronic check-ins, online purchases, and other digital information. This kind of information may include the browser-based search history of a person, a collection of information relating to a person’s social media presence, or what items they looked at when browsing an e-commerce website such as Amazon. While all this information on its own can provide limited insight, by looking at how it relates to other data, data analysts can make informed decisions about how to reach that particular consumer or group of consumers.
The main difference between these two types of data is that unstructured data cannot be analyzed without the use of software specially designed for the task. People whose job it is to analyze this data also need to be qualified in business analytics to further break the data down into usable information.
How is Big Data Impacting Businesses?
In the past, businesses and marketers had to make decisions about consumers’ needs based on limited sets of information, such as previous sales records at a few outlets. With big data, companies no longer have to make assumptions about their customers’ wants and needs and can tailor their offering to appeal to the greatest number of people. By analyzing the online presence of consumers as well as other digital data, businesses can improve their services and products to better meet demand and also add elements of personalization to help promote consumer engagement. This also allows businesses to connect to potential customers before the customers even know they need a service. For example, a northeastern hospital ran a campaign that saw them use big data to identify women over a certain age who had not received a mammogram in over a year and send them targeted reminders to book an appointment. The campaign was a huge success and resulted in a 2000-to-1 return on investment.
In addition to boosting sales, big data can also help businesses better manage their stock inventories. In the past, logistics managers had to make educated estimations about how much stock a business would keep on hand based on previous experience relating to how fast it sold. Using this information, logistics managers would decide how much stock should be ordered to avoid lengthy wait times should the stock run out. However, by examining a range of data sets, data analysts can take the guesswork out of ordering stock.
Using a process called predictive analytics, an analyst can access what stock is most likely to be sold based on a combination of seasonal trends, historical data, and other data. By giving businesses access to pertinent information relating to potential sales, businesses can strike a balance between selling out their stock too quickly and ordering excess stock. In this way, big data can save businesses money and also make them more efficient.
What Jobs are Associated with Big Data?
Data analyst is one of the most popular jobs associated with big data. The job of a data analyst involves exploring the relationship between different sets of data in order to determine if there is any correlation between them. An example of what a data analyst can do would be looking at demographic data and purchase history to determine if marketing to a specific demographic would result in more sales.
Other popular jobs in the field include data scientists and data engineers. While both of these roles involve programming, data scientists typically focus on data analytics while data engineers are more concerned with the collection of the data and how to analyze it.
What most of these jobs have in common is that they require a person to hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on business intelligence in order to perform in the role. By focusing on business intelligence, MBA students learn how to collect data, how to analyze that data, how to visualize data and present their findings, and finally, how to communicate that data so that businesses can benefit from the information. For more information on what an MBA in Business Intelligence entails, as well as what other benefits there are to pursuing a qualification in this field, click here.
Big data is an important aspect of business that can offer businesses access to information that they can use to better equip themselves for the future and become more effective and efficient. As more and more people embrace a digital lifestyle, big data will only become more valuable, so businesses looking to get ahead should do their utmost to embrace this field for their benefit.