Benefitting from Big Data, analytics

By Anthony Rodriguez

Data is all around us. Some might even argue that there is too much of it which is simply adding to the information overload many people are experiencing. However, when used in conjunction with analytics, data has the potential to unlock more effective and accurate decision-making.

In recent years, using the phrase big data has been a way of illustrating the amount and complexity of the data that consumers and businesses have at their disposal. Throw in terms such as structured versus unstructured data, then it is easy to understand why people tend to lose interest in discussions around this topic.

But what is Big Data?

Big Data is the ability to access all data, whether it comes from a company or from public sources, at its most basic point in as close to real-time as possible. This means giving users the ability to get sight of the raw data and put them in a position to analyse that according to their specific requirements.

The decimating fires in the Western Cape provides a perfect example of this. The Advanced Fire Information System is freely accessible to anybody with an Internet connection and provides the latest data on fires throughout South Africa. Coupled with a mobile app, this resource empowers people to make quick decisions that could mean the difference between life and death.

While this might be an extreme example of Big Data at work, it does illustrate how important having access to accurate information as quickly as possible is. But data on its own does not mean anything. You need to couple this data with an analytical model that is able to create a visual representation that decisions can be based on.

This is no longer something that could be considered a nice-to-have. The reality is that all companies must implement data-driven and decision-making through an analytical model in order to be competitive today. Big Data allows for results to be more accurate.

Entrepreneur recently published an infographic that demonstrate how using data can result in smarter business decisions and more revenue for companies. While there are many nuances and subtleties around this, it boils down to companies understanding their customers better. Knowing what motivates customers to buy the products and services of a company means the decision-maker can refine strategy more organically than before. From a consumer perspective, it also means engaging with companies on a number of channels that suit the specific needs of a client.

Social networking has changed the dynamic significantly when it comes to the customer/company relationship. Today, people are better equipped with information on a number of products and services that include not only your company but the competitors as well. This means brand loyalty is becoming increasing fluid with consumers likely to make quicker short-term moves between companies than previously.

Based on this, combining data with analytics will remain integral in assisting executives to make better decisions. While the likes of share traders, investment bankers, and asset managers have been using this kind of methodology for many years, this will extend into other industries. In fact, the role of the dedicated data scientist in organisations will grow in importance.

These individuals will have the technical skills coupled with the business know-how to extract useful information from corporate data. This, in turn, will drive skills development to meet the demand for such roles in South Africa.

Once executives and consumers realise the potential that Big Data has on their respective lives, they will be able to move faster to draw benefit from it. Using an effective analytical model will even further enhance this with both sectors able to respond quicker to what is happening on an almost hourly basis.

Rodriguez is a solutions manager for BI-Blue Consulting
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