Big Data: The Big Questions, The Actionable Answers

04/17/2013 12:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2013

Big data has dramatically risen to the fore over the last 18 months as a way of offering insight induced added value to businesses. However, recently, two key questions surrounding big data have taken center-stage in data-based discussions. The questions are: How do we manage numerous data streams? How do we maximize their value to a business? At the recent Market Research Live conference, research and insight professionals met to discuss these issues head-on. Coming out of this, a series of tangible and insightful answers to 'the big questions' emerged. Ironically, the answer, it appears, is in the data:

Data Dissection is Key

Initial fears regarding big data often center on perceptions that there is simply too much to manage. Assigning data a purpose and a specific data mining team will allow it to have a fixed place within a business and, as such, will be seen as being assigned as a knowledge portal on certain issues. This will mean it is more likely to be used as business and units will not be scared off through the prospect of being overloaded with potentially irrelevant information. Having a small data mining team on each data set will create familiarity with complexities within data, while allowing it to be interrogated thoroughly by individuals with knowledge of its intricacies. Through this will come an increased knowledge of what data can be used for and the solutions it can provide.

Action -- Not Measurement -- Governs All

Data is often viewed by marketers as a measuring tool to derive business performance metrics. However, data's real value comes from turning measurement into action. For example, if your CSAT data informs you that satisfaction is low, it is imperative to dive deeper into the data (a task which can be streamlined with a dedicated data mining team) and find out the levers which need to be activated to improve satisfaction and filter these actions to the relevant personnel -- therefore taking a measurement and constructing an actionable solution.

Timing is Key

One of the core benefits of big data is that it can be generated or called upon a lot faster versus traditional research data as often it is consistently generating and updating. As such, it can instantly be utilized when quick, insight-fueled decisions are required. For example, social media monitoring can be used as an immediate measurement and decision-making tool when deciding how to respond to consumer negativity in crisis communications situations. Similarly, website traffic data can be used as an instant overview to measure online advertising's immediate impact. However, in order to do this efficiently, businesses need to be effective in monitoring, extracting and analyzing data to generate immediate action points.

Alliance Equals Maximizing Value

Data sets available to businesses often have different keepers -- CRM, research, sales, and social media. It is a widely held thought that the best way to use big data is to synthesize various data streams with a view to generating a holistic view of the customer. However, this requires the keepers of data sets to converge and share their expertise of individual data streams with a view to threading their insights together. This can only truly be achieved by business units, external agencies and internal stakeholders coming together and collaborating. Therefore, big data needs to be an entity around which various business outlets are prepared to converge in order to maximize its value.

For more posts like this, please visit