Making the Case for Big Data

Business intelligence and big data can seem intimidating for business leaders who aren’t well-versed in this emerging area. Despite the fact that research supports implementing big data analytics and business intelligence methods into a company as a means to greatly improve efficiency and profitability, some business leaders are still scared to step into the perceived unknown.

This hesitation creates a significant challenge for employees in mid-level positions, who are often tasked with finding ways to improve business operations. Introducing business intelligence technologies and tactics are almost certainly a win, but also involve an investment of time, money, and other resources, and may meet with resistance despite the potential advantages.

The world of business intelligence and big data is also deeply steeped in the tech/IT realm, an area in which company CEOs and other decision makers may not be very comfortable. “Busy C-level executives who will make the decisions about investment in business intelligence need to understand the value of gathering and analyzing big data,” says Rob Croll, an internet marketing consultant and business owner who has provided his expertise to both small businesses and multi-billion dollar corporations.

Croll shares his experience and perspective on the importance of big data technology with Full Sail University students as the Program Director for the Business Intelligence Master’s degree program. Along with Course Director James Jessup, he shared a few of his tips for making a solid business case for big data:

  • Be able to illustrate the broader takeaways from big data – without focusing solely on the technical details – as an effective way of conveying the big picture. What does the company have to gain: revenue, efficiency, reduced costs? Speak to the value big data can provide in meeting company goals.
  • Understand your audience. If they like spreadsheets with thousands of data points, then give them that. But if they are like most busy people, they want to see a summary or, even better, a visualization. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
  • Highlight the value of hidden or unexpected trends. Data can demonstrate the value of decisions that are sometimes contrary to expectations. A great example of this is General Motors, who used data to determine that car buyers were willing to drive two hours to save $500 on a car purchase. Individual dealerships were able to leverage that information to make strategic decisions about where to spend their marketing dollars.
  • Demonstrate the value of efficiency. “When your business baby cries, you can try a new diaper, a bottle, a blanket, or singing,” Jessup says. “But if you have a firm understanding of your data, you will know what each cry sounds like, and you’ll save a lot of time and aggravation. In a business, there isn’t always enough time to try every solution and see which one works best. The trick to efficiency – and profitability – is using data to understand what solutions will best solve certain issues.”
  • Provide reassurance that data and human instinct can work hand in hand. Executives who are less comfortable with data are often concerned that data, and data alone, will be used to drive decisions. Assure them that translating data into actionable suggestions requires a human element as well.

“I see data like the Force – it surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds us. If we improve our understanding of data, we can use it to understand our environment and affect our situation,” says Jessup, whose Business Intelligence Master’s students benefit from his experience as a marketing data analyst/specialist working with numerous brands, including Charles Schwab and Quiznos. Whether companies are big or small, there are numerous ways in which the effects of business intelligence practices can have a marked impact on operation and end-of-the-day results, and even more crucial, on their success or failure.

Full Sail University’s Business Intelligence Master’s program provides students with the tools to manage, understand, and strategically utilize the wealth of data collected by modern businesses. To learn more, click here.

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