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BW Businessworld

Lead Review: Research, Reorganise

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Some time ago, I read that a few political parties in India are leveraging Big Data to improve their chances at the hustings. They are analysing vast amounts of publicly available data — on you and me — to see what we like, our behaviour, our biases, who we hang out with, our professional backgrounds and, then, craft messages and use channels that will influence our political leanings. Will the current elections be won on the back of Big Data? I won’t hesitate to say that the scientific use of data will play a critical part in the results. If Big Data is going to impact the future of the largest democracy in the world, isn’t it time we understood its business potential too? Tom Davenport’s book Big Data at Work makes a good starting point.

The data exhaust of this planet is staggering. As per industry estimates, in 2010, there were 12.5 billion connected devices generating and exchanging data. By 2020, there will be 50 billion such devices. Also, 485 million wearable devices will be shipped by 2018. These are about to add to the real-time cacophony of personal data. Davenport makes a good point about how data is not only going to refactor IT but also dominate the way we see and interpret the world, how our performance at work will be reshaped and how the KPIs for every industry will change.

In other words, it means that there is going to be a tremendous cost to not paying attention to what your data is saying.

Last year, at Wipro, we did a global CXO study along with the Economist Intelligence Unit on how businesses are using data. The study showed that 60 per cent of those polled were planning to use data to build corporate strategy over the next two years. Clearly, the impact of Big Data will extend beyond the immediate need to influence consumers. It will enable organisations to create products like what Google is doing, reduce the time to carry out particular processes and reduce cost by using Big Data technologies like Hadoop clusters. It is going to redefine the very way in which you will conduct your business.

Every CXO reading this book is going to ask: ‘Is my organisation on top of its data landscape? How reliable is the data? Can its quality be improved? How can I create and distribute intelligence from it across the organisation in real time? Can the cost of managing the data be brought down? Can my data help me become the next Amazon?. I would suggest using the DELTTA approach, which the author recommends: Data, Enterprise, Leadership, Targets, Technology, Analysts and Data Scientists. This model helps clarify and prioritise an organisation’s stance with regard to Big Data, forcing it to look for the right data, adopt advanced analytical techniques and tools, bring in the right talent and realign the organisational DNA to good data practices.

Davenport uses a wide variety of examples from across industries (LinkedIn, eBay, UPS, Macy’s, Google, Schneider) that help keep the context of the book simple to follow. He also discusses the use of Analytics 3.0, a technique that combines all types of data and a collaborative
approach to deliver prescriptive actions.

All this helps us think about where and how Big Data can make a difference. The author could have placed more emphasis on the importance of change management to reinforce the new roles and behaviours required to leverage the insights and help shape companies into more data driven entities. Without a proper change management plan, Big Data projects cannot be successful. So, you can’t build your data strategy on static pillars. Keep your mind open to this primary factor about leveraging Big Data. 

Sanjiv is Chief Technology Officer, Wipro

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 02-06-2014)