Opinion

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George Davies says companies need to make sure they focus on using the right kind of data.

Big data is no longer just the domain of the IT department, but has spread to touch many other areas, from marketing to operations. Yet there is still a lot of confusion about how to get the most from it. For small businesses getting a grip on the business aspect of big data early on can mean the difference between long-term success and failure.

However bigger isn’t necessarily better. While big data can no longer be ignored, it is only valuable if it is the right data. The Economist Intelligence Unit found that there is a strong link between the effective use of big data and business financial performance. Used correctly big data can give a company real competitive advantage.

Businesses both large and small are excited about how much intel about their clients they can glean from this resource, and rightly so. Still when the world generates 5 exabytes of data every two days - that’s roughly the same amount as created between the dawn of civilisation and 2003 - how does a business ensure that they are concentrating on the data that will really drive business objectives? How do they know what is valuable and what is irrelevant?

Most companies, regardless of size, struggle with data basics and fail to exploit their data effectively. Indeed a further report from Accenture found that only 39 per cent of companies have data “relevant to the business strategy.” Most are aware of the potential power of big data, but for the less IT savvy it remains a confusing and elusive thing to grasp.

Most organisations in this situation will begin by looking at all the data they have and try to make sense of it. This is starting in the wrong place analysing a lot of information, some of which has no effect on business outcomes, not to mention being an extremely time consuming and costly process. Businesses need to start at the sharp end, looking at what the company wants to achieve, then identifying the information needed to assess whether they’re on track. Only this data is relevant or helpful to moving the business forward. This is where data becomes the catalyst for change and provides the direction for future growth and success.

A targeted business-led approach to data is what is important. This will enable a business to use its data on the things that are most important, such as understanding customer needs, managing cyber threats and keeping on top of finances. It allows a company to hone in on what will make a difference to the business quickly.

Companies become successful at exploiting data by focusing on business priorities. Having all the data in the world will be of no benefit if there is no clearly defined strategy or objective in place on how it is to be used. Once the strategy has been established the data should fit into place and instead of grappling with the big data, a business will be focusing on the right data.

George Davies is CEO of Mood International.

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