Some reflections on Big Data – IBM Analytics reports

by Justin Souter on December 5, 2012


As part of my on-going interest in data, and the power of insight to generate business benefits, my third reflection.

Other posts are “Some reflections on Big Data – Strata Europe”, and “Some reflections on Big Data – London meetups”.

Three documents

This post looks at three recent IBM docs:

  • CMOs and CIOs: Acquaintances or allies?
  • Analytics: The real-world use of big data
  • Understanding Big Data

CMOs and CIOs: Acquaintances or allies?

I blogged last year on a previous IBM report: “Impact of big data and social media #1 – IBM CMO study”.

This is a related follow-on, and expands:

What we uncovered was a call to action for improved collaboration between CMOs and CIOs. It is a clear response to the radical shifts occurring in both the Marketing and Information Technology (IT) fields. The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power between the customer and the organization, putting customers in charge of the relationship. In much the same way that digital technologies have driven change in IT, a similar transformation is taking place in Marketing.

While Marketing has always been responsible for knowing the customer, now they are required to understand and respond to customers as individuals. Marketing can only do this if they can manage vast amounts of unstructured data, make sense of it with analytics, and generate insights that are predictive, not just historical – all on a massive scale. To connect with individual customers at every touch point effectively, they need a system of engagement that maximises value with each interaction. And they need each touch to marry the culture of the organisation with the brand to create authentic experiences that consistently deliver the brand promise. The way to achieve this unprecedented transformation is through technology.

In fact, when we compared these customer-driven changes and challenges facing both Marketing and IT, the data revealed that CMOs’ and CIOs’ focus and aspirations are surprisingly similar in scope. With the explosive change each function is experiencing, and the urgent call for transformation across many enterprises, it would seem the advantages of working together would be obvious. But as Marketing becomes more reliant on technical solutions for customer engagement, and IT’s mandate becomes broader to include front-office enablement, both functions are deep in their own transitions and looking for solutions. Despite common ambitions, their initiatives are often not as integrated as one might expect.

In summary, the paper gives persuasive reasons why CMOs and CIOs should work together, and present some useful first steps, along with underpinning data. One thing that stood out for me was that CIOs are not yet seeing the full strategic impact of ‘social’, although this is already clear to CMOs.

Analytics: The real-world use of big data

A ‘biz-tech’ report which gives high level thoughts for IT decision makers, written in collaboration with Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

The report sets out pretty much what its title conveys. At the risk of serving up platitudes, the following summary points are fleshed out in greater detail:

Key takeaways

  • Analytics: The real-world use of big data - IBM research - Primary obstacles big data adoptionCommit initial efforts to customer-centric outcomes
  • Develop an enterprise-wide big data blueprint
  • Start with existing data to achieve near-term results
  • Build analytics capabilities based on business priorities
  • Create a business case based on measurable outcomes.

Business benefits

Many organizations are basing their business cases on the
following benefits that can be derived from big data:

  • Smarter decisions – Leverage new sources of data to improve
    the quality of decision making.
  • Faster decisions – Enable more real-time data capture and
    analysis to support decision making at the “point of impact,”
    such as when a customer is navigating your website or on
    the telephone with a customer service representative.
  • Decisions that make a difference – Focus big data efforts toward
    areas that provide true differentiation.

Bonus – Booz & Co. latest

I was lucky enough to get an e-mail overnight informing me about Booz & Co.’s report The ABCs of Analytics, which provides some more pragmatic context to the big data debate. Three key points and a speedy read!

Understanding Big Data

Understanding Big DataFinally, Understanding Big Data is an excellent summary of key points regarding the technology underpinning big data, including the history and origins.

With some selective reading, and broadly ignoring the IBM sales spiel, this is a great place to start – in the context of my other readings in this area.

It provides an introduction to:

  • Description of Hadoop & key components
  • The MapReduce approach
  • Hive, Pig, HBase etc.
  • In what circumstances IBM have been using these tools for customers, viz the following.

Use cases

  • IT log analytics
  • Fraud Detection
  • Social Media analysis
  • Energy Data

Bringing it all together

If you’re wanting to make sense of how data and analytics can make an impact to organisations, these documents are great places to start.

One of the key takeaways for me is that the dog needs to wag the tail – start off with your own educated guesses, and put them to the test. Also, if you’re a techie – work with your buddies in the marketing team, as they will thank you for it!

Previous post:

Next post: