Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Not Big Data, It's Analytics

As I mentioned in my last Blog, PR luminaries, including Paul Holmes, are calling for practitioners to tap into "Big Data."

The Summer, 2013, Issue of Kellogg Magazine (published by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) includes "Embracing a Big Data Mindset" in which Florian Zettelmeyer, professor of marketing at Kellogg and an expert in data analytics, talks about the mindset that organizations such as Reader's Digest, Capital One, Amazon and Facebook all have in common. He calls it the "Big Data Mindset" and says it encompasses four elements:
  1. Designing marketing processes with data in mind
  2. Engaging in research and development everywhere
  3. Using predictive analytics
  4. Challenging conventional wisdom
Notice he does not mention "Big Data" itself.

I highly recommend you check out the article at the link above, and while you're there, look into the other articles on big data in that issue of Kellogg. I would also broaden Professor Zettelmeyer's first element to "Designing all processes with data in mind," not just "marketing processes." We need to get out of our PR and marketing towers and understand our entire organizations if we wish to add value.

My recent reading about big data suggests the key to it is really analytics. I believe our focus should be on that rather than "Big Data" per se.

Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris, in their marvelous book Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winningwrite that "Analytics" means:

The extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models, and fact-based management to drive decisions and actions. ... Analytics are a subset of what has come to be called business intelligence: a set of technologies and processes that use data to understand and analyze business performance.

That the power of big data is really in analytics brings us back to the point I tried to make in my most recent post ("Big or Little as Long as It's Data"): PR organizations -- both agencies and organizational practitioners -- need to be data- and insight-driven to succeed in the evolving business environment. It doesn't really matter whether the data is big or small, as long as it is good data and managed according to best practices to generate insights that lead to more effective business decisions and communications programs.

Going to a top management meeting without analytics to support your recommendations and demonstrate your results will be like going into a pro football game wearing sandals and carrying a Nerf football. At best, you won't be taken seriously; at worst, you'll be carried out on a stretcher.


Unknown said...

Exactly. I don't think people should set themselves up to be intimidated by their problems. Instead, they should seize them, piece them apart, break them down into analyzable components, then figure out the solution from there: what to make of them, and how. That is at the heart of data management, or any management for that matter. It shouldn't be a conundrum. Nothing is too big for anything.

Beverley @ Golt Works

Brendon said...

Data should be presented together with analytics to back up the idea you're proposing. I love the imagery you placed right there on your last paragraph. I also want to suggest this article about online reputation analysis in today's culture:

EricSteckel said...

This is spot on. As a client of mine posits, most companies or entities don't even have "Big Data" let alone problems (or needed solutions) that "Big Data" would solve. Most are dealing with "Small Data" and that is perfectly fine. "Small Data" is not only easier to attain and analyze, it can be transformed into powerful actionable results. That's what most business owners and managers are looking for. Beverly Mccombs - you are spot on - break it down in to analyzable components, then figure out solutions that will transform the way you do business. That can be very revealing.

Read this blog entry if you're curious:

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