Decision-makers need to be able to spot and analyse trends, patterns and anomalies. Plan, budget and forecast resources. Compare what-if scenarios. Predict threats and opportunities. Identify, measure and manage risk exposure. IT systems and software must support these efforts.

Although it may be an oversimplification, big data is about analysing more data than an organization analysed in the past, allowing for new insights and competitive advantage.

“It’s about helping business people make better decisions, and actually change the way companies do business. Analytics has always been about transforming business, but the recent huge changes in analytics technologies have created new opportunities for business innovation,” says Gerald Naidoo, CEO of Logikal Consulting.

“Big data is a new name for a phenomenon that has been around for a while. Data collected by companies has always been with us, but its growth is accelerating due to social media and machine-generated output. However, today’s technologies allow us not only to access more information, but to make better use of it.”

Naidoo explains that any analytics project is a business initiative, not just a technology initiative, so it’s vital that business and IT leaders are on the same page with planning, execution, and maintenance. While many companies appreciate the need for these types of undertakings, too few partner with all of the role players involved to ensure that they gain the maximum impact.

“The goals of moving a business to an analytics platform vary from company to company, ranging from changing from reactive analysis to being able to predict market shifts. However, the change within the organisation is only one element because these types of projects are multi-dimensional and complex.

“Ensuring that IT and business are aligned, as well as partnering with the solution provider to ensure that the project is successful, is key,” Naidoo says.

He adds that organisations are still maturing in their analytics implementations and their use of big data, and that leveraging the expertise of a specialist solution provider is essential to gain strategic benefits.
“Recent research indicates that even for those with a strategy, use of data is still in its infancy. Unfortunately, many companies are encountering problems using this data to its greatest effect in their business.

“People are discovering what works and what doesn’t when it comes to managing big data and analytics. Leveraging the knowledge offered by consultants is the easiest way to figure out what will work best for your business.”

Data is a core company asset. A competitive advantage from analytics is no longer a “nice to have”, but a “must have” for companies looking to stay ahead of their competition.

Without a strategic plan that includes coherent goals, strong data governance, rigorous processes for ensuring data accuracy, and – above all – the right people, big data initiatives can easily end up being a liability rather than a valuable asset.