Big Data is getting bigger. The Information Age is chugging on, creating vast swathes of rich data on all facets of private and business life. In its wake, the world is coming to terms with what this means in terms of potential and practicality. This new world offers so much opportunity, in theory.
Is Bigger Better?
Big Researchers, and by that we mean world class modern market research professionals in every size and type of organization, are grappling with the issues and opportunities surrounding Big Data. With humans around the globe rapidly gaining access to the internet, using smart mobile devices, and generally tracking their every step, task and even emotion, the need to tackle Big Data is clearly growing quickly. The potential to marketers and business leaders is just too massive; if not completely clear.
At the same time, the concept of Big Data is likely to soon fall from the “Peak of Inflated Expectation” into the “Trough of Disillusionment” part of the well-worn Gartner hype cycle (exhibit A – see magazine article). This disillusionment is grounded in several reasonable criticisms that Big Data is too unstructured to generate insight, too confusing to guide action, and too expensive to use practically. Big Data incorporates information from some sources which don’t fit into the traditional mold of high quality and acceptable research data. Big Data practices aren’t comprehensively addressed and guided by formidable market research institutions such as CASRO and ESOMAR. And of course, there are real and significant privacy concerns surrounding Big Data.
Practical Big Data: A Near Term Solution for Big Researchers
Big Researchers need to reject the idea that Big Data is rife with big and unsolvable problems. It’s time we move to “The Slope of Enlightenment” where researchers, business executives and government officials capture far greater value from Big Data. It’s all to do with practicality.
Here are five practical reasons why Big Researchers should lead in Big Data.
- Big Researchers are (Big) Data experts. There is no doubt that leaders thirst for data more than ever to make real time decisions. Big researchers are already amongst the experts in their organizations regarding all matters of collecting, analyzing, and presenting high volume, high variety, and high velocity data sets. The education, skills and experience required to design and redesign data capture systems, to conduct complex statistical modelling, and to present insights using new data visualization techniques is all housed in the PhD laden research department. Big Researchers need to remind their leaders and colleagues that it is the research department which should take the lead on Big Data; teaching people how to drink from the data fire hoses now so commonly available.
- Big Researchers break down organizational silos. In the knowledge economy, leaders and indeed all employees, customers and partners rely on access to high quality, rich data. Unfortunately getting different functional, product, and geographical silos to share data sets is easier conceived of than done. Hence the infamous Big Data comment from Behavior Economist Dan Ariely: “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”Big Researchers are highly experienced at working at the center of complex organizations and acting as the central repository and broker of data thereby facilitating the creation of truly big sets of data. Big Researchers don’t just talk about Big Data, they do it!
- Big Researchers make integrating data easier. Going back a decade or so it would not have been uncommon for there to be more software platforms than departments in an organization. A major hurdle to making Big Data practical is combing all sorts of different sets of data which are not designed to be connected, analyzed and reported in an integrated way. Big Researchers know how to merge transactional, psychographic, geo-location, social media, and even biometric data such as pulse and respiration. These skills in data integration make Big Data practical.
- Big Researchers leverage new technologies. Big Researchers are experienced, skilled, and comfortable with more data capture, analysis and presentation technologies than ever before. Big Researchers are already using cutting edge tools such as Google Glass and other “Wearables” to conduct deep technology enhanced ethnographic studies as well as broad passive data enabled quantitative studies. In terms of analysis, Big Researchers are diving into applying Hadoop and other technologies to allow the storage and large scale processing of truly big data sets. Training and investment in Big Data technologies is already core to the budgets and plans of Big Researchers.
- Big Researchers tell stories. Big Data isn’t just about the ability to do really interesting – and often extremely cool – analyses by integrating huge data sets. Big Data is about telling richer more insightful stories and making better recommendations that lead to emotional commitment, investment, and action. Big Researchers know how to combine the quantitative and the qualitative, the structured and the unstructured, the solicited and the unsolicited which are central to Big Data to create stories that stick.
Avoid Big Data Disillusionment: Big Researchers Take Center Stage
Big Data is due now for a big backlash. Indeed, there are real complications which must be addressed to capture value from Big Data. No other functional leader is capable and ready to identify and solve the most pressing problems. Without leadership, Big Data will languish in the Trough of Disillusionment.
Fortunately, Big Researchers can step up now – it’s time to lead! For these five big reasons Big Researchers are best placed to harness Practical Big Data which is the key to addressing issues, unlocking potential, and delivering real value in this brave new Big Data world.
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