How Successful Businesses Will Respond to the Data Tsunami

Sep 21, 2015
8 Min Read

It’s time to stop just surviving the data storm that’s hitting your organization these days and begin harnessing the power of it to drive success and beat the competition. A Big Data guru outlines how businesses can embrace data to better understand their customers, their business – and boost the bottom line.

If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by data, the statistics back you up: If you downloaded a year’s worth of Internet traffic to CDs, the stack of discs would reach 2.5 million miles high.

That’s why data may be seen as a curse by team members who feel they’re about to be crushed by this data tsunami – while others are giddy at the potential it offers.

So, the key question remains: How to turn data into a blessing instead of a curse for any business?

Christopher Surdak, a Big Data expert and technology evangelist for Hewlett Packard, unveils some of the answers in “Data Crush: How the Information Tidal Wave is Driving New Business Opportunities.”

His first piece of advice: Learn to be more selective with the data you keep.

“If you don’t you will lose focus and get lost,” he says. “You need to be able to look at just the data you need, analyze it and learn from it.”

Next, make sure you’re not jumping on “the bright, new shiny object” and spending $5 million on data or software you don’t need or won’t be able to use. The only thing you’ll achieve from that will be regret that will feel like the worst hangover you ever had.

Surdak says there are six steps that any business can take to help it survive – and thrive – under the challenging new conditions presented by an unprecedented amount of data. They are:

  1. Polarize.  Any organization must determine its core business strategy. For example if you’re a commodity business, then focus your data efforts on demand prediction and customer logistics. On the other hand, if you’re a value delivery organization, then zero in on demand generation using social media data. Organizations who expect to do things the same way and get different results are suffering from what Surdak calls “strategic dementia.”
  2. Accelerate. “Too many companies spend time on digital self-flagellation. They run all these reports telling them how badly they’ve done. Who cares? By that time trying to do anything about it will be too late,” he says. Instead, he urges organizations to take action “at the speed of insight,” by responding immediately  to customer needs or desires. If not, “you will become irrelevant,” he says. For example, any business process that touches a customer should cut the cycle time of that process in half within the next year to 18 months. Approval processes should be slashed if possible, more automation should be employed and customers should be kept informed of when processes are speeded up.
  3. Data enable. Data can be a goldmine, but any organization must ensure that it has metrics and measurements in place for all of the business processes. If not, put such controls in place as soon as possible.  Further, extend data metrics into nontraditional data channels, such as email, internal social media, customer communications and collaboration platforms. Not sure if that’s a good idea for your organization? Then Surdak has a question for you: “Am I going to be surprised by things I’ve been measuring for 20 years – or surprised by things I don’t measure?”
  4. Quantification.  You must be able to accurately measure the success or failure of each business process and its inputs and outputs. In addition, once critical operational data is defined, then controls need to be put in place so that process performance can be tracked and improved, such as through outsourcing.
  5. Gamify.  “Some may say that gamification is only for kids or start-ups, but look at McDonald’s and their use of the Monopoly (game) promotion,” Surdak says. “It’s a way to really engage others.” He suggests gamifying internal collaboration platforms and identifying workers who thrive in such an environment. Then, “encourage their growing contributions to your business,”  he says. Further, online customer interactions should be gamified through company websites and social media accounts. Also, set up the right analytics so it’s clear where gamification efforts are going and if they’re profitable.
  6. Crowdsource.  While crowdsourcing and cloudsourcing have been around as long as the Internet, it’s more important than ever that companies leverage the increasing amount of data from various outside players. If gamification is also used, this makes the input of customers even more valuable, as demonstrated by companies such as Sephora, Verizon and Home Depot.  “Their social media presence has morphed into ‘content factories’ – places where product reviews, testimonials, training and marketing materials are created for free by customers,” Surdak says.  It’s also important that an organization identifies workers who are adept at organizing and orchestrating business processes. These employees, he says, “will be key to managing operational effectiveness once more of  your value chain is placed in cloud markets.”

Surdak says organizations must implement all six steps in order to be successful – because if they don’t, “they’re toast.”

“But the companies who get it right? They’re going to be massively successful,” he predicts.

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