Mining for Insight: The Big Data Gold Rush

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Sethuraman JanardhananIn this special guest feature, Sethuraman Janardhanan of Happiest Minds discusses how capturing and analyzing data is going to be a huge challenge and an immensely profitable and critical activity in the very near future. Sethuraman is the practice leader for big data and advanced analytics at Happiest Minds. He is involved in pre-sales, solutions, delivery and account management for Analytics Practice in North America Geography. He currently manages key fortune 50 retail customers on their big data analytics strategy, implementation and product development at Happiest Minds. Sethu’s primary areas of expertise include marketing, risk & web analytics like Retail, Travel, Financial Services and Technology. Sethu holds a PhD in Systems & Finance from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and is regular guest speaker on Analytics and Strategy.

People and machines are generating data at scale unheard of in prior human history, and entrepreneurs and savvy business leaders are mining data for insight, spinning the information they extract into marketplace gold. The scale of data growth is unprecedented and astonishing, with the total data accumulated in 2012-2013 more than nine times the volume of all the data generated prior to 2011 combined.

With increasingly sophisticated analytics, people are using the information extracted from this profusion of data to fundamentally transform marketplaces and decision-making. Whole industries are being upended as traditional business models give way to innovative new approaches. Airbnb and Uber are just two examples of how entrepreneurs tapped into data to create a brand new marketplace.

On the consumer side, people are using data to make buying choices in greater numbers than ever before. Whereas prior generations had to rely on self-serving company descriptions of their products and services and the testimony of friends and family, consumers today check out product reviews and make decisions based on a much broader cross-section of consumer opinion. The existence of this source of information is driving online sales higher, with B2C sales estimated at $1.4 trillion in 2014 and expected to reach $2.3 trillion by 2018.

Big data analytics have taken center stage as companies mine an avalanche of data for actionable insights. Big data has transformed predictive modeling and forecasting strategies, completely changing the way companies extract and interpret insights.

And with big data tools, companies gain a measurable competitive advantage, as a survey of 400 large companies conducted by Bain & Co. illustrates. The Bain study shows a massive advantage for companies that use big data, which are:

  • Two times as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance in their industry
  • Five times as likely to make decisions more rapidly than peers
  • Three times as likely to execute decisions as intended
  • Two times as likely to use data very frequently when making decisions

These results make it clear that an investment in big data analytics can pay significant dividends. So which industries are investing most heavily in big data tools? Industry sector spending is dominated by financial services companies, which have invested more than $6 billion in big data analytics. The closest competitor for the title of top big data investor is software and internet companies, which spend nearly $3 billion.

Industry insiders expect investment in big data analytics solutions to continue to grow for one simple reason: It provides a healthy return, as the Bain & Co. study shows. The fact is, big data is more than just a business tool; it’s a marketplace revolution. Observers have noticed that the physical and digital worlds are becoming more interconnected with the advent of mobile connectivity and Internet of Things technology.

There’s a relationship between that phenomenon and big data, which increasingly generates the information that drives business activities and decision-making. Companies that are led by people who understand the implications of the data-driven economy will thrive in this new environment. Others will just continue to exist as organizations — if they are lucky.


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