The Death of Business Intelligence

Big Data: Not the be all and end all of business

Posted in Business, Business Intelligence by neilwilson1984 on November 19, 2013

Big Data has become something of a buzzword in the business world in the last few years, seen by many as something of a magic tool that can help them devise all-conquering strategies and give them a competitive advantage they could only dream of in the past.

However, it should not be seen as a wand that can just be waved to cure all problems and create the perfect operational structure, according to one leading voice in the use of the technology.

Speaking at the IAB’s Engage Event, Bryan Melmed, director of insights at Exponential, a company that promises “to turn ‘big data’ into advertising intelligence”, said that Big Data shouldn’t be viewed by anyone as the answer to all their prayers.

“Data is not going to solve every problem”. Data is only human, he said. “It’s touchy, so beware of putting your full faith and trust in big data.”

He said that one of the biggest problems comes when the technology used in the analysis of data on this massive scale comes into contact, there is always a degree of distortion, and it is here that most care must be taken to ensure that problems are kept to a minimum.

Mr Melmed described the notion as being “very messy”, adding: “This is where the human element comes in. Humans live in an analogue world, and when you’re dealing with analogue data, there is a signal-to-noise ratio – and the more you listen the more you get confused.”

But is this where one of the main strengths of Big Data comes in? The sheer amount of data that we handle when we are looking at Big Data almost defies human logic. We use it because it allows us to analyse far larger amounts of information than we ever have in the past, and it is this that develops all new strategies.

It almost forces leaders to abandon the way they have seen customers in the past, and instead look at aspects beyond the stereotypes.

While in the past we may have targetted products at the 18-25 year old sports fan, or the 30 year old mother, we can now look far deeper, ignore the previous ways of thinking and devise a strategy based on more than logic – it has brought about the age of true reason.

“Our brains are designed to create patterns and shortcuts, but that does a huge disservice to every single person we deal with, who is not easily summarised by 30 or so demographic characteristics,” Mr Melmed added.

The best tool, however, he concluded in his speech, is reality. It is important to know that it has limits to what it can achieve in reality.

“No, it’s not going to predict terrorist attacks before they happen,” said Melmed. “It’s not going to cure cancer. And we are not going to solve Wanamaker’s problem of figuring out how much of our advertising is wasted,” he quipped.

Once businesses recognise that there are limits to what Big Data can achieve though, it is possible to realise the true potential that it has to assist us in bringing a new dawn to how we advertise and who we target.

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