Using Big Data and Analytics to Make Better Decisions

Filed in Blog, Customer Service by on June 9, 2014
Using Big Data and Analytics to Make Better Decisions

Today I am delighted to share a guest post by Bob Thompson, author of Hooked on Customers.

What makes big data most interesting to me is the new types of information such as website clickstream data, social media posts, video surveillance feeds, and even sensor data from consumer products. These new forms of data definitely pump up the volume, requiring new data storage techniques such as Hadoop, open source software for managing very large data sets across clusters of computers. New analytics tools have also been introduced to analyze most any kind of data you can collect.

However, what’s “big” about big data is open to interpretation. According to analytics expert Karl Rexer:

For some of our clients, we certainly have analyzed over a million US tax returns or tens of millions of bank transactions or grocery store transactions. Now, to us those seem like big datasets, and that seems in a way to be big data and big data analysis. But if you were Google, Facebook, or Amazon, or looking at web traffic, or if you’re in a scientific field looking at some astronomy data or some genome research, you might have data that’s much larger and different. Sometimes it’s wide, in terms of lots of columns, or very deep in terms of the number of rows. And so other people’s data might be far larger than the datasets that we’ve been using.

Big or small, more data doesn’t necessarily mean better decisions. The key is picking right decisions, says James Taylor of Decision Management Solutions. The biggest mistake is to start with the data or the technology, rather than the decision. “Big data projects should focus on how to improve how we run the company,” advises Taylor.

A recurring theme from industry experts is the importance of knowing what’s possible. While so-called data scientists are emerging in high-impact positions designed to mine big data effectively, I believe the real leverage is in data strategists. These are business leaders who focus on key decisions that improve the customer experience and/or increase profitable revenue.

Everyone seems to believe that “thar’s gold in them-thar hills.” I wonder, though, if the excitement around big data will follow the same path as the Great Gold Rush of the 1850s. Miners flocked to California in search of gold, but most came up empty. The companies that made money were the suppliers of picks, shovels, and what came to be known as Levi’s jeans.

To sum up, big data is a big opportunity, but the challenge is focusing analytics on the big decisions customers will care about. Otherwise, you’ll end up with fool’s gold, not the real thing.

About Bob

Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

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