When talking with customers and doing market research on Big Data, I see some common trends.  Every company in the Fortune 2000 I have spoken to knows that Big Data is hot and they need it, but not everyone can clearly articulate why.  Technology driven companies like Netflix, eBay and others have already been leveraging Big Data for years. And almost every new startup I look at has Big Data at the core. The early adopters have gained a competitive edge with a first mover advantage.

If you are looking to get funding to capitalize on Big Data projects, like any major project, there needs to be a business plan with measurable return on investment.  Start by asking, what Big Data challenges would you like to solve? What questions do you need to ask of your data?  What trends would you like to find within it?  The answer to this question drives your objectives.

Objectives fall into two categories, those that impact the top line of your business and make IT strategic to the business stakeholders.  The second helps empower IT reduce costs while improving services levels.

Here are some ideas for questions to ask and goal areas to focus on….


Top Line Business Objectives

brand reputationHow can you use Big Data to improve or protect your brand and customer advocacy?

A Telco’s brand reputation is often tied to the reliability of their network. In order to improve their customer service and eliminate dropped calls, they need Big Data to be able to predict issues,  triage occurrences after the fact, and identify root cause analysis to resolve and prevent their technical issues.  This requires the ability to process and visualize billions of transactions daily and in real-time.


churn preventionHow do you know when your customer is about to choose a different provider?

When speaking with a large financial institution, they talked about analyzing Web site data and user behavior to learn and later employee policies to reconcile issues with customers who are about about to switch financial institutions. Customer acquisition costs are very high no business can afford to lose a customer. By analyzing past behavior you can identify and predict future behavior and ideally prevent the churn before it happens.  If you were about to switch investment firms, would you be more likely to put that on hold if a financial adviser gave you a call?

conversion optimizationHow do you improve your services to close more sales or land services opportunities?

We are seeing a lot of Retail rely heavily on new opportunities for sales conversion: Personalization and targeted advertising, increased convenience through self-service checkout, utilization of mobile device and five senses marketing.  Mobility and sensor data are at the heart of this.

Personalization isn’t just a tool for the Web. If you are not familiar with five senses marketing, imagine this scenario:

You are walking through a mall; you stop to stare at a window setting because a hat catches your eye. Meanwhile the WiFi is enabled on your phone pinging your geo location and MAC address. A bit later, as you walk by a screen near the ice cream shop, you see a reminder of that Fedora you loved in the window.  And five minutes later, a coupon shows up on your Facebook profile. You suddenly feel compelled to go back to that store and purchase that item you gazed at with interest.

sentiment analysisHow can natural language processing of the social sphere impact every area of your business?

I recall the early panic to have 10K followers on Twitter. Every marketer on the planet was friending to make a new friend. They obsessed on retweets and other metrics to increase one’s KLOUT score. But Social Media Analysis is much more than a measure of your retweets. How does the world of Social interaction translate into business impact? How much does it impact stock prices? How much does it impact advertising and sales? What part of the dialog influences these decisions?

Most companies are finding that their email lists are failing them. They can barely get customers to fill out satisfaction surveys. Without analyzing social media, they are left in the dark. Sentiment trends drive real-time supply and demand. By capitalizing on the current trend either through content development, right product/right time, shift in pricing, or personalize engagement, one can impact all of the above areas: brand reputation, churn prevention, conversion optimization.  Sentiment analysis with geographic overlays helps you know what is trending and with what target markets.

This week on Pinterest: Unicorns are trending in hipster population. Unicorn pendant sales expected to increase by 30%, start manufacturing.

This week on Twitter: Google and Amazon outages, the NSA is spying, is the Cloud at risk?

Having a shopping cart in the 90s did not mean everyone was buying from you. Having web traffic does not mean you are generating revenue. How do you close the sale? The website alone is mundane, the web integrated is power. The old school rule of marketing was awareness is king and then content became king, now what?

Social sentiment analysis that leads to personalization and understanding the customer is king!  The right content, at the right time, with the right calls to action. 


Bottom Line Business Objectives


fraud reduction How can you leverage Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics to reduce Fraud for your organization?

A bank visualizes patterns within data and documents that determine the likelihood of fraud and can take corrective action before the business is impacted. I expect to be notified if my card is used in a hotbed area shortly after I was using it in an area five thousand miles away with my physical card.  The sooner I am notified, the sooner the bank can shut down the account and reduce exposure.


operations efficiencyHow can you leverage Big Data to accelerate existing ETL processes and meet SLAs?

Auto manufacturers see the core cause of production delays, and perhaps attach these analytics to business processes to automatically take corrective action, such as leveraging different logistical approaches. Meanwhile, Retailers are identifying ways to optimize sales of existing and predicted inventory.


Cost Savings – Can Big Data allow you to free up existing budget for innovation?

A large retail was able to eliminate some legacy COBOL systems which greatly reduced maintenance costs and empowered the team to focus on new areas of innovation. That same company was able to consolidate data warehouses and since their new offering was based on open source software that made commodity hardware reliable, they were able to lapse very expensive systems and maintenance contracts.


risk reduction

How can the right Big Data Analytics reduce risk for your organization?

Progressive Insurance was traditionally known for their willingness to provide insurance to “at risk” drivers, as a result, they tended to have higher than normal premiums. They implemented a system called Snapshot which allows them to download driving data from a user’s car.  This reduces their risk while making sure the driver gets the best price. For almost every company, there have been more traditional benefits like eliminating risk during compliance audits.


Making it work for you

Like all initiatives, Big Data success is measured by actionable insights that make your company more money or eliminate costs. If you aren’t getting enough insights, you may be asking the wrong questions or the data may simply not be there. This drives you to start collecting and storing the right types of data.  Not having the right data is generally an easier problem to solve than being able to ask the right questions.

Setup some goals that center on maintaining your company’s market relevance i.e. if we don’t get there first, our competition will.  And put some hard numbers on implications to your financial top line or bottom line.

What scenarios are you exploring for Big Data?   I’d love to hear about them.