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Big Data - Advantage by Analysis

How to Draw Competitive Advantage by Analysing Big Data (and how to do it).

Big data. What is it? In short, it’s the expansive volume of data that floods in and washes around a business on a daily basis. It’s got variety; it arrives in great volumes, and it comes in fast. And vitally, it has the power wrapped up inside it to make unbelievable differences to productivity, service, sales, profitability and business growth.

New revenue opportunities. Way more effective marketing. Improved customer service. Enhanced operational efficiency. Competitive advantage. All of this and more could be yours, if only you could get to grips with and analyse the voluminous quantity of data that is flowing your way.

The thing with big data is that, if you can manage to analyse it, it could significantly alter your business, in a very, very positive way. Not only would an array of marvellous insights reveal themselves that your marketing team could feast on for the foreseeable future and use to open up a whole raft of opportunities. Big data can also be drilled down into to unearth solutions to the very issues that might be holding your business back.

Where did all this big data suddenly come from?

If you are wondering why all of a sudden there’s all this ‘big data’ flying around, you’ve got social media and the likes of YouTube to thank.

Around the mid-noughties, people started to realise that platforms like Facebook and YouTube were generating enormous quantities of data via their users. It was the first time users got to engage with an online entity, to show whether they liked or disliked something, to share it or comment on it. It was around this time that Hadoop was created to store and analyse big data sets. As Hadoop and other similar frameworks started to develop, it made it so much easier to work with big data, and far cheaper to store it.

Think over the past ten years how many new social platforms have emerged, and how the users of those platforms have grown and grown. All this combined is precisely why, in recent years, the volume of big data has hit and busted right through the ceiling. And data isn’t just coming from humans.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought a whole host of everyday objects and processes to life by connecting them to the internet. And with these connections come huge outpourings of data on everything from product performance to customer usage patterns. And that is why big data is a massive opportunity.

Five amazing things you can do with big data analytics

There are of course more than five things you can do with big data analytics. But five is a good start. So let’s take a look.

1. New Product development

One thing big data really helps you do well is make predictions. By analysing the commercial success of certain products, and going deeper to look at the success of certain key attributes of those products, you can gain very powerful insight. For leading brands, no new products are ever launched without interrogating big data drawn from social media, test audiences, focus groups and the like.

2. Formulate maintenance plans

Predicting potential issues before problems actually arise can lead to exceptional savings. Say for example you manufacture washing machines. Feedback data shows that certain models made in certain years fail in particular areas of functionality after an average amount of time. The data rolls in from customer service log entries, engineer callouts, warranty claims and more. By analysing the data in detail, companies can see precisely where maintenance plans need to kick in, and where equipment and parts uptime need to be optimised.

3. Boost customer engagement

How can you enhance engagement with your customers? The only way is to know how they behave and what they really want. This you can learn from data gleaned from website visits, call logs, social media and a range of other customer touchpoint sources. Once you can see precisely where you are needed, you can start to optimise the value you are delivering by improving the way you handle problems and by giving more in a way that is personally tailored to your audience.

4. Streamline operations

By analysing customer returns, feedback, turnaround and delivery times, there is the opportunity to reduce and even eliminate problems and also to predict future demand. Big data also allows crucial decisions to be made in line with current market demand.

5. Boost Security

Cyber security is a massive area of concern for all businesses. Big data allows the identification of patterns of attempted breaches so that measures can be put in place to thwart attacks before they take hold. Big data can also be used to detect patterns of fraud within an organisation.

The big data challenge…

A lot of businesses are daunted by big data. Global brands have the tools to break it down and decipher everything from buying patterns, customer behaviours, future sales trends and supply chain glitches. But that’s global brands. What about the ‘normal’ business?

Big data sets are so expansive and varied, and hurtle in at such warp speed, that traditional data processing software gets dangerously overheated trying to deal with them.

Where does your data go? Where do you channel your web analytics; your social feed insights; your income and expense reports; your sales cycle data? I’d hazard a guess it’s something like Excel. And who is monitoring that data? Your sales and marketing teams; your operations department? With all due respect, these people are not data scientists.

Excel really is not the best solution for analysing big data. It’s a complex animal, and without data science expertise, creating or even simply using the formulae needed to extract understandable, tangible insights is always going to be a major challenge.


A business that is keen to grow needs to find a way to navigate and analyse big data. It will deliver competitive advantage without a doubt; reduce operational costs; boost customer retention and open up a whole world of opportunities.

Technology is making it possible for all businesses to make use of big data. It is therefore down to each individual organisation to make sure they put adequate data analysis measures in place in order to make the most of it.

Reducing complex, highly varied data sets into actionable intelligence allows the business owner to make informed decisions.

First published: 09th July 2008 | Author: Anthony Kirrane.
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