What managers need to know about Big Data

Posted by Justin Hesser on January 29, 2014

Big Data has some powerful potential benefits, but in order to fully take advantage of them, managers must understand their implications. The proliferation of such a vast amount of information has changed the very currency of business: now, knowledge plays a huge role in how effective companies can be. 

And that knowledge doesn't always have to come from expertise anymore. Tasks which used to take a skilled technician to complete can now be almost entirely automated. Let's say, for example, that you manage a fleet of vehicles. In the not-so-distant past, you'd have to have a mechanic readily available for regular maintenance visits. Now, however, there are hundreds of data points that can be automatically collected and sent to you, thus cutting down significantly on the need for an expert consultation. 

Instead, the role of the technician comes in how the systems are designed and analyzed. While FileMaker development can help you identify what's wrong with your cars, it can't actually get its hands under the hood. It also needs to be "told" which parameters to look out for, something that comes from personal input. Thus, human and technological capital have to work in tandem. 

This capability also means that data, and the access to it, is a form of currency all its own. Consider the case of Google, which has built a billion dollar company based on its ability to both connect users with the information that they seek and gather data from those same consumers. If your business isn't considering the financial implications of knowing considerably more about potential customers, you're doing yourself a serious disservice. 

At the same time, privacy and security concerns have to be at the forefront of all the decisions you make. It's important to let people know exactly what sorts of information you're collecting about them, and for what intended purpose. Then, once you have it, it's critical to take steps to ensure that none of that data gets leaked. If people suspect that their personal information is vulnerable when given to you, your brand could suffer irreparable damage. 

Like anything else, you will get out of Big Data only what you put into it. If you're willing to invest heavily and learn more about how it can help you, the benefits could potentially be massive.