Whether or not you understand the ins and outs or the capabilities of “Big Data” isn’t as important as knowing this: Big Data gives your business a competitive advantage. No questions asked.
There are hidden patterns and insights about a customer’s behavior that can be used to improve marketing tactics and increase ROI. We know this information is accessed on every single desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone within seconds, and that these devices work seamlessly together and tell a story. But finding the story isn’t as easy.
A term you hear all the time is “insights.” This word gets thrown around any time the topic of data comes up. Everybody wants them. Nobody can define them. That’s a critical part of the problem with finding the story. Analytic toolkits will let you trend data and find variables and correlations that may not be apparent on the surface of a situation. But there’s a catch: Not all correlations are meaningful, and not all intersections are insights.
Take this correlation for example (our data team at Blue Ocean Consulting had some fun with this one):
I think we can all agree that the number of Nicholas Cage films and the number of people who drowned in a pool have absolutely nothing to do with each other, even though this chart makes us believe the information is linked. The lesson here is that when businesses start trending disparate data sets inside their enterprise, the same thing happens. They get a story, but maybe it’s not the right story—and it isn’t the story that will move the business forward. You have to know what to ask, and then interpret the answer to inform decision-making.
Data scientists and the art of storytelling
All data scientists have the ability to extract meaning from data they’ve gathered or have been given; they’re able to interpret the information and come to a conclusion. However, what sets data scientists apart is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.
Brent Dykes is the director of data strategy at Domo, and he considers this the golden rule: All data stories are data compositions, but not all data compositions are data stories. If the insights assessed aren’t understood and the story isn’t compelling, no change will occur. He notes the difference can be between grabbing interest and converting leads:
“Interestingly, much of the current hiring emphasis has centered on the data preparation and analysis skills—not the "last mile" skills that help convert insights into actions. Many of the heavily recruited individuals with advanced degrees in economics, mathematics or statistics struggle with communicating their insights to others effectively—essentially, telling the story of their numbers.”
Once businesses begin to understand that data analytics and data storytelling could help them become smarter, more productive and better at making decisions, it’s only a matter of time before Big Data is the official bandwagon.
It takes Big Data and big talent to move your business forward
Our data scientists at Blue Ocean Consulting make us unique. Right now, many technology companies are touting their Big Data abilities, and that’s exactly what business leaders and decision-makers need to be wary of: A lot of people are talking about it, but far less are actually executing on it. The high caliber of our data scientists is our differentiator; they understand that customers have different points of view when looking at the same product, so they use a variety of analyses to customize the message and strategies to each group.
The bottom line is data isn’t one-size-fits all; Big Data must be tailor-made to be leveraged. Flawed data stories are dangerous because they have the potential to impede business decision-making based on weak narratives, biased data and confusing charts. Business outputs and analytical insights can’t just tell any story, they have to tell the right story. No questions asked.
Terri Foudray is the vice president of business development at Blue Ocean Consulting (BOC), a consulting and technology firm, helping companies create digital solutions to solve business problems and drive growth. How does your company rely on Big Data to drive business growth? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @blueoceankc!