CommonSense Blog

By Bob Pearson | Apr 19, 2012

Big data is becoming a popular term.  I half-expect my mom to toss it out in our next conversation.  At the same time, it is not a well understood topic.

Here is my view on why today’s company should be thinking about how they utilize big data to create new opportunities for their brands.

I’ll start with the current environment and I’ll keep it short.  It’s easy for any company to admit that they are overly dependent on databases and most of their data sources don’t “collaborate” to provide insights across departments, languages or even brands.  The corporate world is increasing its use of data, but in a decreasingly effective manner.  We could write an entire blog series on these issues.

What we all want is what I call “data agility”.  Think of data agility as having three key parts:

#1 – Human Patterns – we all believe we are snowflakes, which is wonderful. But we’re not.  We’re human beings who follow predictable patterns.  So, if we can analyze data going back 3-10 years for a brand or a topic, we are able to predict how people or communities will react to new content.  We are on the edge of real predictive modeling.

#2 – Real-Time Data Integration – if we think of the data we analyze, it is often telling us how one activity did from one brand.  With big data, we can harness the data streams from multiple departments inside a company, combine it with learning’s externally and build algorithms and filters that tell us what we need to do now.  Real-time data integration will lead to real-time action in the marketplace, eventually down to the individual street or store level.

#3 – Competitive Intelligence – we often hire people with industry expertise who have that 6th sense of what will need to occur to make a deal or launch a brand.  These folks will be even more valuable when they combine their expertise with the 6th sense of big data solutions.  For example, if you sell your brands via a retail store, wouldn’t it be nice to know the online presence/impact of 1,000 stores in priority order?  Or know exactly how your competitors have marketed their brands by store for the last year, which shows you where your specific opportunities are to break through the clutter? Or know which influencers influence stores in each state?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJOPx6cKZMQ[/youtube]

The companies and organizations who take the time to embrace big data and learn how it can work to their advantage will do well.  The folks who say “big data” in presentations, but don’t really know what it means will join an illustrious group of people who previously said “social media is important” or “content is king” or “mobile will change the world”.  It’s easy to talk….but far more important to transform the playing field together.  In my view, there has never been a better time for saavy executives to identify new opportunities for their brands.  The most innovative leaders will have ‘data agility” as one of their core skills.

That being said, Jim Weiss, our founder and CEO, always tells us to hire people smarter than ourselves.  We believe this also applies to companies, so we just acquired a company smarter than us in the area of big data, called Ravel.   We’re very pleased to accelerate our journey with the Ravel team.  You can learn more via our release and a brief vlog that Steve Blackmon of Ravel and myself did together.

All the best, Bob Pearson

PS/Ravel was formed with the Austin Technology Incubator.  More on ATI in the previous link.