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Building a bridge to demystify big data

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One of the most valuable competitive advantages any business has is its internal data. The insight contained within that data can be the difference between continued growth and development or falling behind the competition.

The term big data is relatively well understood, but Leo Paas, Professor in Marketing Analytics at The University of Auckland and Executive Education facilitator, explains that for many organisations the limitations and advantages of their own data are less clear. Like externally available data, these internal data can be more traditional structured data-sources or can alternatively consist of more sophisticated big data.

“From a technical perspective it’s not the size of the big data that’s the issue, it’s the volume and frequency at which new data is being generated. Rather than in batches, the data is flowing in continuously, is often unstructured and comes from multiple sources.”

Deeper integration of data analytics into business processes is immensely important to help companies achieve their strategic goals. Before diving into that analysis, however, how can you be sure you’re setting the right targets? How can data be used to meet your goals, and what data might you be missing? Answering these questions requires more than an understanding of big data, analytics and technical modelling – you need a manager’s business knowledge and experience.

In his Creating Value with (Big) Data course, Leo outlines how building a bridge between management and analysts is key to getting the most out of our data. 

“Analysts are often very capable and highly technical people who derive insight from data, while managers utilise their broad business knowledge to match that insight to strategic goals. Having them meet halfway and bring their unique capabilities to the strategy leads to better results they may not be capable of on their own,” says Leo.

To add that managerial perspective you should be able to speak the language of the analyst and earn their respect, which can be quite challenging. Gaining a better understanding of big data and analytics in a managerial context allows the manager to ask the right questions and offer greater context around strategy and pinpoint important variables to inform your strategic goals. 

“If you’re not embracing these technologies you are at a competitive disadvantage. And if this difference becomes large enough you’re going to lose so many customers that it is going to be detrimental for your business,” says Leo.

“This course delivers skills to managers that enable them to make full use of big data and solve strategic and tactical questions instead of just coming up with complicated models that don’t link to their questions.”

Making the cultural switch within your company takes time, but the transformation should be led from the management team.



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