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Data Oceans: You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Posted by Jeff McKenna on Tue, Jul 17, 2012

big data cmbWe hear a lot about Big Data—from Target using predictive analytics to tell which of its customers are pregnant, to MIT and Intel putting millions behind their bigdata@CSAIL initiative. Yet, I’m struck by the fact that most of what I read, and hear at conferences, is about  the wealth of data technology can provide researchers, managers and analysts. There is very little about how these folks can avoid drowning in it, and most importantly make the decisions that address business challenges.

For the uninitiated, the Big Data revolution is characterized by three traits:
  • Volume - Technology has led to an exponential increase in data we have available

  • Diversity - We can aggregate data from a wide range of disparate sources, like customer relationship management (CRM) systems, social media, voice of the customer, and even neuro-scientific measurement.

  • Speed – We are able to field and compile quantitative studies within days; before online, IVR, and mobile data collection methods were available this took weeks

While there may be other definitions of Big Data, it is clear that technology is making data, larger, wider, and faster. What we need to think about is how technology can make our response to and analysis of data larger, wider and faster as well, and avoid drowning in it.

The water metaphor is often used to describe Big Data, and the folks at the GreenBook Consulting Group use the term “oceans of data.”  They describe three business models driven by data: The Traditional (based on Data Ponds), Transitional (based on Data Rivers), and Future (based on Data Oceans).

Traditional market research based on small discrete amounts of data has its place – but as the folks at GreenBook point out, market researchers must face the fact that progression from these Data Ponds to Data Oceans is inevitable.  The Traditional mindset is faced with inertia and will decline in relevance in the next five to ten years.

Those who are in the Transitional phase are moving forward, folks here are in a “reactive” position.  They are seeing these changes around them and applying some big data solutions in their word.  They might have tried one or two tools or are even using them now on a regular basis. But when faced with large amounts of data, they think about technology only in terms of how to collect more data – not in how to manage and apply it quickly and in big ways.  In contrast, the Future mindset takes a proactive approach; these are the people who think about how technology will be the fundamental basis for applying the ideas and solutions to lead companies.

In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing specific examples of technologies that are helping push market researchers towards this future. I’d love to hear from you about things you’re doing to respond to Big Data and the challenges and opportunities you are facing as we confront these Data Oceans.

Watch our webinar Using Technology to Help your Entire Company CMB techUnderstand and Act on Customer Needs here

Posted by Jeff McKenna, Jeff is a senior consultant at CMB and team leader for Pinpoint Suite-our innovative Customer Experience Management software. Want to learn more about how Pinpoint Suite can help you make sense of your "Big Data," schedule a demo here.

Topics: data collection, big data, data integration