It may seem like we’ve reached the pinnacle of data growth, but the truth is that we’re only at the doorstep of the age of big data. Though we have fallen prey to the thought that everything that has been invented has already been invented, the reality is that technological innovation is flourishing, and tech companies are finding more and more ways to make our world “smart.” They are integrating networking capabilities into everyday objects so that they can be automated or start tracking data about their usage. The Internet of Things, or IoT, as we have come to call this new world of artificially intelligent objects, now also encompasses manufacturing equipment, allowing businesses to reduce spending on production, learn quickly how to make their operations more efficient, and give their human employees more specialized jobs. In short, big data is here to stay – and it’s only getting bigger. By 2020, we can expect to see around 40 zettabytes of big data in the world… fifty times more than what we had generated by 2010.
Another new technology experiencing the spotlight is the set of tools needed to process and analyze all this data. One of the particularities about big data is that it isn’t organized or defined in any way that makes sense to our older computers. The data is simply generated and pumped out there into the ether – to gain value from it, we have had to develop technology that can extract patterns from the fog and represent them in meaningful ways for the user. Every company is collecting big data, but the difficulty of making use of it has thus far dissuaded many companies from taking advantage this business intel. According to Forrester Research, most companies are making use only 12% of the data they collect. Word to the wise: the small percentage of businesses who have figured out how to make use of big data are experiencing some serious benefits and growth. Here’s how.
- Decide what matters. There’s probably no sense in using the full 100% of data your company is collecting. The more completely smart technology permeates the world of objects, the more data will be generated about mundane activities and functions that serve no purpose for your analytics. First, take a look at what kind of information you’re collecting, and decide which segments could help you improve your reach, product, or efficiency. In the beginning, it will also help to further prioritize data sets into what you need to know, and what you’d like to know. Doing this will help you prioritize important information in your analytics and make the whole process less overwhelming.
- Follow the data. If there’s a certain data set you’re looking for that doesn’t seem to be available or isn’t revealing much helpful information, take this as a sign that you may be barking up the wrong tree. Keep your eyes open, and you may realize that a different set of metrics is offering far more valuable information, and could lead you towards new opportunities for growth.
- Make your smart products smarter. We can now collect data on just about anything, but growing your data just for the sake of it won’t do much to bolster your business intelligence. Prioritize smart products that can help in one or more of the following ways: automating repetitive labor; intuiting patterns and insights and integrating them into your workflow; sharing data with collaborators and stakeholders in real time; identifying areas for improvement or adjustment; or helping your data itself be more accessible.
A study in the Harvard Business Review showed that businesses who are using data to make decisions were outperforming their peers by 5% in productivity and 6% in profits. In our highly competitive market, these margins are nothing to scoff at. Of course, human creativity and perspective will never be replaced by big data – at least, not any time in the near future – but this cloud of information that has been collecting over your head will be able to give helpful insights into your place in the market and where you can go from there.