Senior Executive Big Data CARE Package

Bill Schmarzo By Bill Schmarzo March 2, 2015

image1 Having trouble getting your senior executives to appreciate the business potential of big data?  Can’t  get your management leadership to consider big data to be something other than an  IT science experiment?  Can’t get your line-of-usiness leaders to forfeit some golf time to understand how data powers big business?

Then this “Big Data Senior Executive CARE Package” is for you!  And for a limited time, you get unlimited license to share this CARE package with as many senior executives as you desire.  But you must act NOW! Become the life of the company with your extensive knowledge of how new customer, product and operational insights can guide your organization’s value creation processes.  And maybe, just maybe, get a promotion in the process!!”

The senior executives at many organizations don’t know what to think or do about Big Data.  Oh they’ve heard the hype, seen a keynote and have high-paid consultants on staff to help them sort out the confusion about big data.  But they lack some pragmatic advice “from the front” about how and where to start their big data journey. And this is where the big data Senior Executive CARE Package comes in!

I’ve written numerous blogs targeting senior management, and I am going to use this one to aggregate the others into a single document that gives senior executives not only the guidance on where and how to start their big data journey, but also highlight why senior management needs to make big data their #1 business priority (yes, you heard right).  Let’s hit it!

To Achieve Big Data’s Potential, Get It Into The Boardroom

To get the full business value from big data, companies need to focus less on the three V’s of big data (volume, velocity, variety) and more on the four M’s of big data:  Make me more money!  New sources of data, coupled with advanced analytics, can improve customer experiences, optimize key business processes and uncover new monetization opportunities.

A Forrester study by Brian Hopkins and Fatemeh Khatibloo highlights the critical role of a business-centric focus in the big data discussion.  Hopkins and Khatibloo argue that technology-focused executives within a business will think of big data as a technology and fail to convey its importance to the boardroom.

Businesses of all sizes must reframe the big data conversation with stakeholders in the boardroom. The key big data question is:  on which strategic initiatives should the business focus their big data capabilities and how can we understand the realm of what is possible?

Leverage Big Data For Competitive Differentiation

I’m always a bit confused how organizations struggle to differentiate between technology investments that drive competitive parity versus those technology investments that create unique and compelling competitive differentiation. Let’s explore this difference in a bit more detail:

  • Competitive Parity is achieving similar or same operational capabilities as those of your competitors; to leverage industry best practices and pre-packaged capabilities to create a baseline that, at worst, is equal to the operational capabilities across your industry.  Organizations seek to achieve competitive parity when they buy operational processes through enterprise software packages such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Sales Force Automation (SFA).
  • Competitive Differentiation is achieved when an organization leverages people, process, and technology to differentiate its products and services from those of its competitors in ways that add unique value for the end customer.

Leading organizations “buy” business parity, but “build” what is differentiated in providing unique value to their customers.  Big data capabilities extent beyond solving operational problems. They enable organizations to achieve differentiation by optimizing key business processes and uncovering new monetization opportunities with unique insights about  customers, products, and buying patterns.

A History Lesson on Economic-driven Business Transformation

History has shown that the most impactful technology innovations are ones that have a significant economic impact.  From the printing press to interchangeable parts to the microprocessor, these technology innovations have impacted the fundamental economics of the world; providing unprecedented opportunities for more agile organizations to disrupt existing markets and establish new value creation processes (see examples in the table below).


Big data possesses that same economic impact potential: to create smart cities, improve the life of citizens, reduce poverty, and even cure  diseases.  And for many organizations, the the first consideration related to big data is:

How effective is your organization at leveraging available sources of data and advanced analytics to uncover new customer, product and operational insights that can drive new economic value by differentiating your customer engagement, optimizing key business process and uncovering new monetization opportunities?

The Importance of Thinking Differently

One of the biggest challenges for organizations developing business strategies that leverage big data is contemplating how to think about big data.  Organizations are accustomed to thinking about “more” – faster, cheaper, better – but they struggle when they have to think “different”, and that’s causing lots of problems.

Thinking more – faster, better, cheaper – is easy.  In the IT world, we’ve been doing that for years.  The challenge is to throw out your traditional thinking in order to think different; to approach the business opportunity for a different perspective.  This blog identifies 5 areas where organizations need to think differently about the big data opportunity and stop trying to “pave the cow path” by applying these new marvelous technology and business innovations using the same old approach.


Metamorphosis:  Recreating The Business

I taught an MBA course at the University of San Francisco titled “Turning Big Data into Business Power.”  As part of the class, I developed an exercise tohelp the students (and clients) create a Business Metamorphosis vision supported by the identification and prioritization of strategic big data use cases.  As part of the exercise, we discovered that one thing that our Business Metamorphosis visions have in common is metamorphosis from product-based business models to “as-a-service” business models, such as selling:

  • Jet-engine-thrust-as-a-service (jet engine manufacturer)
  • Farming-yield-as-a-service (farm equipment manufacturer)
  • Energy-efficiency-as-a-service (utility provider)
  • Air-Miles-as-a-service (airplane manufacturer)

If the business is ready to create this “as-a-Service” Business Metamorphosis vision, Big Data is going to play a critical enabling it.  No matter what your organization’s ultimate business vision, going through the Business Metamorphosis Vision exercise can yield some valuable insights into how big data can be leveraged to uncover new monetization opportunities.  And it’s easier to do than one might think, as the students in my class discovered.

A Big Data Roadmap:  Big Data Business Model Maturity Index 

How effective is your organization at integrating data and analytics into your key business processes?  How quickly can you leverage new customer, product and operational insights to improve your value creation processes?

My final blog provides a short animation to help senior executives start thinking about big data from a business enablement perspective. And while yes, big data is being driven by some amazing technologies; leading organizations are quickly realizing that they don’t need a big data strategy as much as they need a business strategy that incorporates big data.


Giving Your Senior Executives the Big Data Care Package

I hope that you can put this “Big Data Senior Executive CARE Package” to use within your organization; as a series of “lessons learned” that can be used to mobilize your image5senior executives around the business potential of big data.

And if you are looking for one more gift to give your executives, try my book “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business”.  It’s not sexy, it’s not grandiose, and it’s not full of wild predictions about how big data is going to change the world – it’s just provides pragmatic, hands-on advice on where and how to start your big data journey with an eye to enhancing your value creation processes and potentially, metamorphosing how your organization makes more money.

Bill Schmarzo

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