We live in the Digital Age in which the global economy is fueled by data. As a result, most analysts believe companies need to transform into digital enterprises so they can take advantage of data and the technologies used to leverage that data. Alex Toma (@alexbreakline), a digital marketing specialist, writes, “Data has always been fundamental to the success of digital.” Few business leaders need convincing that so-called “big data” is an asset for their company’s operations. The World Economic Forum has declared big data an asset class like gold or oil. Staff writers at Gadget go even further. “With the Digital Revolution in full swing,” they write, “data is to business what oxygen is to mankind. It is a crucial resource — one that enables companies, especially smaller ventures, to make better business decisions, grow their customer base, keep their competitive edge and secure funding.”
In spite all of its advantages, data carries a certain amount of baggage that other sources of wealth don’t. For one thing, data often involves personal information that can get companies in trouble if that data is used unethically or is stolen by criminals. As the Gadget team notes, “Data-driven companies do everything digitally, including the transmission, processing and storage of your customers’ information. This makes your operations more efficient and competitive as opposed to those who are doing everything the paper way. There is a catch: the data under your care needs to be kept safe and secure at all times. A data leak may put an abrupt end to your customers’ trust. This can cost you your business.”
The business benefits of big data
Every company has data of some sort. Normally, the larger the company the more data it has. The challenge is knowing which data is important to obtain business benefits. Kayla Matthews (@KaylaEMatthews) reports, “Because of how many different channels are available to collect and generate data, many businesses are storing all of it, rather than selecting what could be useful and purging the rest. But the problem is that store of information continues to build to the point where it’s almost impossible to pinpoint what is relevant to use. It often ends up forgotten or overlooked because there’s too much total data available.” Below are a few of the ways businesses are currently using data to their advantage.
1. Understanding your customers. According to Daniel Newman (@danielnewmanUV), CEO of Broadsuite Media, “A consistently good user experience is key in retaining your customers. More than half of customers today say they’ve switched companies solely because of poor user experiences. Companies who fail to embrace customer experiences as a strategic path to growth won’t just be lagging, they’ll get left behind.” According to the Gadget team, “Personalization is key. Today’s customers don’t want to be treated as numbers. They want a service that is tailored to their very specific situations.” Cognitive solutions, like the Enterra Shopper Marketing and Consumer Insights Intelligence System™, can leverage all types of consumer data to provide high-dimensional consumer, retailer, and marketing insights.
2. Identifying new markets. The Gadget team notes, “Besides keeping your current customers happy, a data-driven approach helps you identify new target markets, what products and services these potential customers are looking for, what they like and don’t like about their current service providers, and what would make them switch to you.”
3. Attracting funding. According to the Gadget team, “Being a data-driven SME increases your chances of securing funding. Having all the necessary data at your disposal helps you craft a thorough presentation that answers all the potential investor’s questions.”
4. Adapting better to changing circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the business landscape very quickly. Cognitive solutions, like the Enterra Global Insights and Optimization System™, can leverage data from a wide array of sources to help companies keep up with changing conditions. The Gadget team notes, “The continuous analysis of data harvested from different sources allows you to predict, forecast, and adapt to market changes, and mitigate problems ahead of time.”
By now it should be clear that data alone will not provide companies with the gold they seek. Like gold, data must be refined. Cognitive technologies often provide the advanced analytics necessary to gain actionable insights from large databases.
Making the most of big data
Werner Daehn, CEO of rtdi.io, asserts, “Make sure that the insights gained through machine learning are actionable. Gaining insights is always good, but it is even better if you can act on this new knowledge.” He goes on to make an important point: Not every company will take the same action, even if they obtain similar insights. He explains, “A shopping basket analysis shows which products are sold together. What to do with that information? Companies could place the two products in opposite corners of the shop, so customers walk through all areas and will find other products to buy in addition. Or they could place both products next to each other so each boosts the sales of the other. Or how about discounting one product to gain more customers? As all actions have unknown side effects, companies have to decide for themselves which action makes sense to take in their case.” Adlina A. Rahim (@RahimAdlina) puts it another way. She writes, “Big data doesn’t answer critical questions that enterprises have, but rather, it provides them with new information that can prompt new questions that enterprises haven’t thought of asking. Once enterprises have a better idea of what they want to find out, they can turn to [business intelligence] tools to deliver the insights, and even make predictions.”
Whether it’s looking for insights, predictions, or prescriptive actions, cognitive technologies are playing a central role in business operations. Jim Sinur (@JimSinur), a digital business expert, explains, “The interaction between AI and Big Data is in the early stages, and organizations are discovering helpful methods, techniques, and technologies to achieve meaningful results.” Gil Press (@GilPress), Managing Partner at gPress, adds, “Digital transformation is finding out what data can do to your business decisions and actions. It’s focusing your company on mining and benefiting from its second-most important resource after its people: Data.” Yossi Sheffi (@YossiSheffi), the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, asserts data may even be more important than people. He writes, “The well-worn adage that a company’s most valuable asset is its people needs an update. Today, it’s not people but data that tops the asset value list for companies.” Either way, both men agree that big data is gold.
 Alex Toma, “Why Data is the New Kid on the Digital Block,” Business 2 Community, 7 July 2020.
 Staff, “Big data is oxygen to business,” Gadget, 4 October 2019.
 Kayla Matthews, “The Most Common Missed Opportunities With Big Data,” insideBIGDATA, 18 August 2019.
 Daniel Newman, “Improving Customer Experience Through Customer Data,” Forbes, 4 April 2017.
 Werner Daehn, “What Is The Value Of A Big Data Project?” e3 Magazine, 6 April 2020.
 Adlina A. Rahim, “How big data is empowering better business intelligence,” Techwire Asia, 24 March 2020.
 Jim Sinur, “AI & Big Data; Better Together,” Forbes, 30 September 2020.
 Gil Press, “Big Data Is Dead. Long Live Big Data AI.” Forbes, 1 July 2019.
 Yossi Sheffi, “What is a Company’s Most Valuable Asset? Not People,” Supply Chain @ MIT, 20 December 2018.