Speaking for most people, it is a relief that election ads are no longer on the airwaves. For many, election night is like watching a sporting event where we follow results, count red and blue states and, especially since 2000, electoral votes.
This year, “Big Data” got a piece of the national spotlight. You may have seen news reports focusing on Nate Silver, who runs the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog. Prior to the election, Silver predicted that President Barak Obama would be re-elected. This attracted some criticisms from national commentators. The results of the election proved that Silver’s predictions – based on predictive mathematical models and careful data analysis – were accurate.
Silver’s predictions provide an example of big data at work, which extends far beyond political polling. Whether it is in business or other endeavors, leveraging big data typically refers to how an organization collects, examines, manages and uses information.
Businesses today are collecting more data than they know what to do with, requiring people with new skills and a new management style to turn that information into a competitive advantage.
As a result, businesses across the country and all over the world need managers who are skilled in data analytics to mine and manage business data.
Data analysis is not new. In the 1970s and 80s, airlines began looking at ticket purchases on specific routes, times of year, times of day, etc. to develop new and more profitable pricing strategies. Perhaps the best known execution of data analysis was highlighted in the book, Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, which was made into a major motion picture and focused on the Oakland A’s use of data to select players undervalued by other teams.
What is new is that anyone can now get access to data and use their own technology to store, analyze and visualize it. What is also new is that firms are beginning to recognize that they have (or can buy) massive databases of order, purchase, demographic information about their customers, and that these data are underutilized.
In the past, many business leaders used their “gut instinct” as a large part of the decision-making process. Today, decision-makers have access to more and more information about their customers, their products and services and the marketplace. Businesses, organizations and many others are using big data to help make more accurate predictions about their markets and develop better strategies to grow their businesses and expand their market share.
Naturally, this change presents new management challenges. Leaders have to learn to ask the right questions. Organizations have to improve how they collect and manage data and must find people who can translate that data into useful information and actionable intelligence.
In today’s knowledge-based economy, business professionals are expected to possess sophisticated data analysis expertise and self-management skills. As global business expands and markets become increasingly complex, stakeholders will need to apply data analytics in order to adapt to the scope, intensity and relentlessness of market changes and continually reinvent themselves in order to compete, survive and sustain.
Data-oriented professionals who want to shape the future of global business today are leveraging the power and potential inherent in data analytics. Data analytics professionals mine, interpret, and present data enabling organizational leaders to make data informed decision making and evidence-based action.
Let's hope businesses and organizations are ready to leverage big data.
Written by Thomas Edison State University