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BIG DATA: EVOLUTIONARY OR REVOLUTIONARY?

In business, there are revolutionary and evolutionary changes.

Changes such as Henry Ford’s assembly-line-produced Model T are revolutionary. They fundamentally reshape the way we do things and open up a new realm of possibilities. Other changes—such as morphing from the straight 4-cylinder engine to the V-8—are more evolutionary. They enable us to do the things we’ve been doing, only in a faster or more effective way.

Much has been said about Big Data and the ways in which it will change the marketplace. But how fundamental are these changes? Will they revolutionize the way we think about analytics, or simply expand the world of business intelligence (BI) tools to their next logical phase of evolution?

At Sendero, we believe a strong case can be made for both.

EVOLUTIONARY

At their core, Big Data analytics and traditional business intelligence tools share the same goal: to whittle mountains of data down into valuable, actionable insights.

For example, a clothing retailer can use both tools to analyze trends or satisfaction surveys from the previous season. Either will allow the retailer to glean valuable market, operational and customer insights from millions of transactions and opinions.

However, the models differ, and one glance under the hood reveals the significant variances between the two. In our example of the clothing retailer, traditional BI tools are limited by the kind of structured customer data they can analyze, such as purchasing history, surveys, and focus groups. These provide valuable, structured data, but they are also limited by scope and participation.

This is where Big Data begins to separate itself from traditional BI tools and ventures into new territory. Big Data extends analytics into the realm of unstructured, real-time data. 

Think of it this way: A traditional survey filled out within 24 hours of a purchase doesn’t speak to that customer’s ongoing satisfaction. Add to that the fact that many customers decline to participate in surveys. The result is an unclear understanding of true, long-term customer satisfaction.

Big Data takes our capabilities to the next level by leveraging things like Facebook comments, online reviews, social networks, and other “unstructured” forums. What are people saying behind our backs? What are they telling their friends? They were happy at the time of purchase, but are they still happy now? Can we expect them to do business with us in the future, or have we lost them? In its ability to answer these questions, Big Data shifts from evolutionary to revolutionary.

REVOLUTIONARY

Though Big Data tools did not create the world of data analytics or the thought behind it, their application is producing revolutionary results.

For instance, retailers can now perform sentiment analysis—gauging customer feelings and experiences with a product, store, brand, or even specific location, by taking the pulse of social media.

It’s an amazing feat. Millions of unstructured Facebook posts or Twitter tweets can now be directly analyzed and gathered into a report that tells a company which products and services are working, which aren’t, and which could use enhancement. If a customer is not pleased with the durability of, say, his running shoes, you’ll know the instant that dissatisfaction kicks in. If a store in downtown Dallas is increasing customer satisfaction 10 times the norm—while across town a store is decreasing it—you won’t miss a tweet.

In short, Big Data is revolutionary because it provides structure for the unstructured and lets us hear what was previously unspoken. Big Data Analytics harnesses the volume (vast amounts of data), velocity (rate at which data grows and changes), and variety (unstructured and structured data) of information in our world to add value to our businesses.

BIG DATA MEANS BIG CHANGES

Big Data is evolutionary in that it enhances and improves the things we’ve always done. But it’s revolutionary in that it provides a level of real-time intelligence, brings order to “unstructured” data, and allows us to gather insights from consumers who may have otherwise not have otherwise shared their opinions.

Big Data helps us explore destinations that are off the beaten path. Just as choosing the right vehicle is a matter of where you want to go, choosing the right analytic tool depends on where you want to take your business.

Companies of all sizes are recognizing that increasing the volume, variety and velocity of information can add tremendous value. The opportunity this affords us to add value and to empower companies opens up new avenues for innovation, and gives us endless destinations to explore on the road ahead.

Interested in finding out how you can better put Big Data to use at your company? Contact us today at info@senderoconsulting.com—and let the revolution begin.