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Five ways to make big data work for your business


23 May 2016

Five ways to make big data work for your business

Dr Ed Curry of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics on how to hack into your own business intelligence


Big Data is a big business opportunity. It can be disruptive, it can be transformative. Businesses of all sizes need to understand its considerable potential to keep ahead in this constantly changing market.


Big Data is transforming whole industries. The concept of a connected car is changing how that sector will operate, for example.  The new Tesla is combination of an electric car and a smart phone. The customer is expecting the digital experience to continue from their phone to the car. For existing car manufacturers to compete they will need to adapt to the transformation.


Every business can benefit from exploiting their data to deliver value in all areas of their operations, but most of them have little idea how to do this.


 As a relatively new and rapidly evolving field, businesses face many challenges in using big data technology. Here are five key Some key steps in building a big data analytics strategy include:


1.    Understand your business objectives: What are you trying to achieve for the business? Cost efficiencies? New business opportunities? A clearly articulated business vision is critical together with associated goals and milestones. Identify and prioritise opportunity areas.


Business data strategy in action: In 2015 Philips took a strategic focus on the convergence of their consumer, medical, and cloud-based technologies to enable data sharing and analysis as a key enabler for more effective, lower-cost integrated health solutions.


2.    Put data at the heart of business decisions: Use data to drive agile decision-making and keep the organisation ahead of the competition. This could start with a focus on critical business decisions and growth to include everyday actions and decision-making where data can make a difference.


Business data strategy in action: Agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere is using the data from sensors in its farm equipment to help farmers manage the equipment to decrease downtime and improve fuel efficiency.


3.    Encourage a data-driven culture with creative involvement and innovation from employees across the organisation: Senior-level drive, visibility and communication are critical for success. It is important to have an executive champion for Big Data (Chief Data Officer). But it is also important to drive adoption, create awareness and demonstrate practical relevance of data analytics insights for all areas of the organisation, not just in IT.


Business data strategy in action: Usama Fayyad was the first person to hold the CDO for Yahoo! In 2014 he was appointed the CDO of Barclays in London where he is responsible for delivering their big data technologies for insights across the Barclays Group globally.


 4.    Make corporate data easier to discover and access:  Simplify the process of discovering and accessing data within the organisation. Encourage business units to make their data available in easy to use formats and with self-service platforms for use by others within the organisation.


 Business data strategy in action: These efforts can be called by many names; “Data Hub”, “Data Lake”, and the emerging trend of “Data Spaces”; and the goal is simple. Bring your data together in a single place.  A common trend now in many data driven organisations, especially in the financial and insurance sectors, is to build a "Customer Data Hub” where data is gathered on all customer to create a 360-customer-view.  Their data analysts now spend more time extracting customer insights than trying to find customer data.


 5.    Leverage the business data ecosystem: The business benefits of sharing and linking data across domains and industry sectors is becoming more and more obvious. Look for opportunities to work with business partners in your value chain to cross-fertilise and combine your data for mutual business benefit.


Business data strategy in action: Going back to the John Deere example, that same sensor data can be linked to data on weather, soil conditions and fertiliser usage to optimise and predict crop production. This has opened up partnerships with other company along the agri-data value chain.


Dr Edward Curry is a research leader at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics ( He is Vice President of the Big Data Value Association ( a non-profit industry-led group set up to increase competitiveness of European companies with data-driven innovation.

Publication Date: 
Friday, 22 May, 2015