Don’t let Big Data get in the way of Big Business

By Rachel West April 18, 2013

Big Data has become one of the hot topics in our daily conversation with clients; businesses are pushing for answers. They want to know if they have what they need to run their business as usual.  Or they are concerned that there will be no more “business as usual” left if they don’t start integrating Big Data and advanced analytics into their business model.

That’s why we need to understand what your business is, and where you want it to be a few years from now in order to help address those top line questions when it comes to your Big Data decisions.

If you are in the data intensive financial services industry, not only do you need to satisfy a wide array of regulatory and privacy requirements, but more importantly, you need to generate demand to increase revenue streams across your diverse lines of business – be it retail and commercial banking, trading and portfolio management, wealth management,  or mergers and acquisitions activities. The demand for robust and cost-effective ways to accommodate growing data asset has always been there.  But, it must be done without putting the speed and accuracy of business decisions at risk. In this dynamic market, the traditional approach of building a monolithic data warehouse at the center of the architecture, and utilizing operational databases as the source systems and proliferating data marts to produce reports is inevitably challenged.

So when I hear one client telling me, “We don’t have Big Data problems,” I say “Not yet”.  As far as I know, they have less than one terabytes of data in their data warehouse. But their analysts are probably spending all hours or all night to execute queries, while the business is grappling with the strategic decisions as how to effectively segment, profile and target customers to increase activation and engagement. I wonder if all of the recent hype around Big Data has created its own problem.

Big Data is neither the problem nor the solution. It’s the new reality in the fast growing consumer- and information-driven business world.  Although a perceived notion of Big Data is the complexity in managing the volume, velocity and variety of data, the ultimate goal has to be how to turn increasingly large amounts of data into useful intelligence to rally business functions at all fronts like marketing and sales, product development, finance, IT, customer services and satisfaction.

You may have a thriving business today, and your centralized data warehouse, data marts and BI tools work just fine. But when was the last time you surveyed your customers? Did they like the new product even if it was 3 months behind schedule because of a near-perfection prototype process? Or how about the new reporting portal with all the nice charts that took the entire IT department 6 months to develop, did it do anything for the customer?

Even at its best, effectively monitoring business performance to flag areas of risk requires the types of advanced analytics that traditional data warehouse simply can’t handle. Aside from known performance issues, it is not designed to capture content or behaviors and it can’t easily ingest new data sources that any competitive organizations need to in respond to changing market conditions.

Is your data “Big” enough to be a problem today? Do you know the answer? In either case, I would recommend taking an inventory of your data assets and analytic capabilities, and see if you can quickly find out how your customers perceive you and what they think about your products and services, your competitors, and your markets.

If your answer is no; we need to have a conversation about your Big Data needs.

About Rachel West

As a Platinum Player Award winner and industry solution leader at EMC Consulting, Global Services, Rachel West specializes in technology strategy and implementation, product and service innovation and information management for financial services clients.
With more than 20 years of experience in the financial industry as an analyst, advisor and strategist, Ms. West offers deep knowledge and insights into the value of an organization’s information assets, and works closely with many leading global financial institutions to leverage their technology investment to better manage information, and empower them to deliver unique products and services that drive business profitability and growth.
Before joining EMC, Ms. West worked at Putnam Investments, spearheading the process reengineering and user workflow design in conjunction with the transformation of enterprise information architecture that was one of the first in the financial industry.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts’ MBA program, Ms. West also has a degree in economics and finance from the top ranked International Business School at University of Nanjing, China.

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