Big Data – Big Problems?

Lego Big Data AnalyticsI was asked an interesting question this week about whether the recent controversy around governments gathering data to map and inform security services would impact the current themes of social media, big data and analytics in the world of business.

My answer was ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Leaving any wider politics around this issue aside, this has become a burgeoning industry in recent years. Our ability to store data has increased dramatically and we have been finding ways to use this data to add value to business.  We are all consuming ever more data.

Is this new? Certainly not business has always run off data.  However a public spotlight has been sharply focused on the technique. This will undoubtedly raise concerns; concerns that need to be addressed for the public to be made comfortable and negate any impacts.

So here are a couple of good questions to ask

Does it add value to the customer? Good examples here are Amazon and Netflix movie recommendations. I like these recommendations, they are based on my and other customers purchases. This is data-analytics in action.  It genuinely adds value to me, my experience and therefore I am comfortable.

Can customers understand the linkage? Are the linkages between observations and outcomes logical, something that is intuitive that I understand. Ie ‘Because you bought product x, you may like product y too’ or more close to home for me ‘because you have been late on payments before, we anticipate you maybe late in the future’. These are all logical, I may not like the answer, but the logic is intuitive and therefore I can agree with.

What is the exception process? Any statistical model is not perfect, it cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy, so there needs to be process to gather new information and make updated decisions. Just because I was recommended this product based off the model, it doesn’t preclude me from purchasing something else.

There is a careful line to be drawn here for any business. Going too far, not being logical or being unyielding will be seen as intrusive and raise concerns in the customer base. Getting this right can add value to the customer, their loyalty and business profitability.

The bottom line here is customers will not mind, I believe, if we are responsible, using the data proportionately and for their best interest. In many ways just like shop keepers of old, the personal touch can help, but don’t be ‘creepy’.

So are there Big Problems for Big Data? I think the term Big Data will change (it is too scary for people), and there will be heightened awareness of the issue (cloud apps may struggle), but as long as we remain responsible, the approach will continue. The genie is out of the bottle and it adds too much value for all to stop.

Photo Credit: Dunechaser via Compfight cc

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