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What the Hell Is Big Data? Las Vegas Growth Summit

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Fri, Nov 14, 2014

Probably the most disappointing presentation at the Growth Summit was Kenneth Cukier’s, Data Editor for The Economist.  Speaking from London, without video, the presentation was interrupted or dropped several times, making it disruptive.  You may catch the irony here.  Big Data is one of the leading factors in the Disruptive Innovation and exponential growth our first speaker, Salim Ismail got our attention with.

Cukier feels Big Data will be the defining business trend of the next decade.  Time will prove whether he is correct.  Based on the power of technology to reduce costs and double speeds at 18 months or faster, how well you are able to mine and use the data your business collects may prove your success or undoing in the marketplace.

Here are two examples of how companies are using big data:

  • Wal-Mart collects a great deal of data, naturally for accounting purposes.  Through their research they discovered when severe weather approaches people naturally purchase flashlights and batteries.  They noticed at the same time these purchase went up so did the sale of Pop-Tarts!  So now when severe weather approaches do you know where you can find the Pop-Tarts?  Up front with the batteries and flashlights.
  • A Seattle company tracks the backend of GPS data.  They discovered that traffic correlates with the economy.  We’ve discussed leading indicators before.  They’re using vehicle traffic as a leading economic indicator to declining or improving city economics.

Big data in your company can and should be one of your biggest assets. 

What are the two most important skills sets for a leader?   They are the ability to forecast and delegate.  W Edwards Deming noted the number one job of a leader is predicting, noting that whoever predicts better wins.

Big data when mined properly provides the resource to forecast better.  IF you doubt whether this is important, consider as Cukier pointed out how Wal-Marts were able to stay 9 days ahead of their competitors for 52 years. 

If you want to learn more about Big Data watch Kenneth Cukier’s Ted video Big data is better data He leads with an interesting story about apple pie and how it fell from being the number one selling pie due to a change in pie sizing by supermarkets. 

Are there some cautions to using big data?

In the Power of Habit they relate a story about Target mining their data to discover an important shopper.  A woman who is pregnant is a much coveted shopper in the department store industry.  Target determined if they could discover the buying habits of a pregnant shopper and discover who they are sooner in their term they would benefit from gaining more of that shopper’s purchases. 

They were able to discover what items were generally purchased most immediately after a woman discovers she is pregnant and by doing so begin to market to that specific target market to get them to continue to shop Target.

Unfortunately there can be some repercussions when you begin to send marketing material to someone you believe is pregnant.  In one case early on in Targets development of this Big Data a male called rather angry.  “Why are you sending this advertising to my daughter?  She’s only 17!”  Target earnestly apologized, suggesting somehow a mistake must have been made to send this information to her.   Several weeks later the man called again.  This time he apologized noting that they’d discovered she was pregnant after all.

Mining your customer data can be very valuable, however there are risks to how you manage and use it.  If you’re not exploring how you can utilize the enormous amount of data you’ve collected on your business and specifically on your customers, this should be a urgent message to make you begin to research what you have and how it can be utilized.  If you’re not been collecting any data on your business and your customers (and it would be hard to believe you’ve not since most of companies collect some type of information on their customers purchases) then it is strongly recommended you begin this process now. 

Does your company have your sales process documented?  Jack Daly the author of Hyper Sales Growth is an extraordinary speaker, sales trainer, and entertainer.  We'll discover how many companies he finds have their sales process documented and many other great ideas from his Growth Summit presentation next blog. 

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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