How to Use Big Data to Make Faster and Better Business Decisions

Big Data is clearly a disruptive technology, but using it successfully is as much art as it is science. The key is integrating Big Data with traditional BI to create a data ecosystem that allows you to generate new insights while executing on what you already know.

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Fri, January 11, 2013

CIO — Large enterprises, especially financial services firms, are adopting Big Data at a more rapid pace than expected, according to a recently released study by Big Data consulting firm NewVantage Partners. But how are organizations using Big Data to make better business decisions? Success, it turns out, is as much an art form as it is a technology solution.

Last summer, NewVantage Partners held discussions with C-level executives (chief data officers, chief information officers, chief technology officers, chief analytics officers, chief information architects) as well as line-of-business heads and senior function heads at more than 50 large companies, most of them with more than 30,000 employees. Executives from financial services firms represented about 50 percent of the respondents, but NewVantage Partners also interviewed executives from insurance, government and other businesses.

"Most of the companies spend over $1 billion a year in technology," says Paul Barth, founder and managing partner of NewVantage Partners. "They aren't usually quick to respond, but when they do they have a lot more resources to put behind their initiative."

Use Big Data to Make Better Decisions

And these large enterprises see value in Big Data and are bringing their resources to bear. Barth says 85 percent of respondents reported they already have Big Data initiatives under way.

"Over 75 percent were investing over $1 million a year already," Barth says. "Twenty-five percent were investing over $10 million a year. There's a real commitment to using this technology for one program or a series of programs. They made it absolutely clear they could not do the programs they were doing without Big Data."

Real Value of Big Data Is Accelerating Time-to-Answer

Respondents gave a number of reasons for their investments in Big Data, from reducing risk to creating higher-quality products and services. But two reasons were clear leaders: achieving better, fact-based decision-making and improving the customer experience. Of course, these are leading reasons for investments in traditional business intelligence (BI) analytics, too. Barth said that when NewVantage dug deeper, the real "quantum leap" for companies when it comes to Big Data is accelerating the speed at which they can get to a decision, or time-to-answer (TTA).

"If your time-to-answer is 30 minutes in one case and 30 seconds in another, it really changes your business processes," Barth says. "It makes you much more effective as a business analyst."

By using new Big Data technologies, organizations can answer questions in seconds rather than days and in days rather than months, Barth says. This acceleration, in turn, allows businesses to answer questions that have resisted analysis, develop test and learn processes that quickly adapt to the market and automate complex workflows.

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