Crunch the Numbers

It is a phrase that has been seen in headlines of articles across industry publications, frequently heard in board rooms, and endlessly repeated on internet forums. Yes, ‘Big Data’ has been a hot-button topic and a dominant trend for some time now, but all evidence points to an army of executives, marketers, and other leaders that still don’t really have a clue what to do with all that juicy information.

In 2013, performance measurement data for business comes in two basic sizes – the ever popular “Big” and the far-less-often discussed “Small.”  Of course, not all businesses have access to glamorous Big Data – most companies don’t have tens of millions of visitors to their websites, or hundreds of thousands of impressions for online ads, nor do they have the resources to hire a full team of analysts to derive meaning out of the numbers. Of course, this isn’t an excuse to forego leveraging the data that is available to them to create better business processes. Small, meaningful data is itself highly useful in determining success factors, metrics, and benchmarks. In fact, having limited resources dedicated to this effort can help prioritize which information is the most important to understand.

On the other hand, companies choosing to engage in the business of Big Data need to undergo a basic shift in philosophy. Many marketers are just looking for the data to tell them things are improving, especially in more number-centric verticals, like financial marketing. There is a clear need to identify means of applying the data in a way that is not self-serving by nature. Available data can be parsed any way you like (‘It doesn’t matter that our revenue dipped by 10% this month, we got 40,000 more hits to the site!’), but it needs to be the driver in making smarter strategic decisions. It’s about applicability.

Another common mistake is the assumption that data only supports marketing-related initiatives. The truth is, sales teams, customer service departments, and other lines of business might be surprised to see what cold, hard numbers have to say about their process and efficiency. In reality, every piece of data collected should have an application somewhere across the business – the challenge lies in recognizing where it belongs and what fresh perspective it brings within that framework.

This immense body of data is only growing. As more and more information becomes available and the science of its analysis becomes more complicated, companies need responsible voices who can tell them what the data means, not just in general terms, but in the context of a specific business. What’s big is getting bigger – take smaller steps with a trusted partner to avoid getting lost in its shadow.

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