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The real value of big data

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Greg Pritchett, MD of Marval Software, discusses how data is growing – and how big data can help companies deal with it.
Today, data is growing faster than ever before. 2,2-million terabytes of data are created every day, of which about 10% is structured data. We send more than 200 million emails every minute. Every 48 hours, we generate as much data as we generated from the beginning of time till year 2003.
In fact, more data has been generated in the past two years than in the entire history; while it is estimated that, by the year 2020, 1,7Mb of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.
That’s a lot of information and nobody was really ready for the data explosion of the past decade. Although the concept of big data was not really new, organisations were not prepared to deal with the size, impact and accelerated speed of this global data explosion. Big data has two distinct features that make its use particularly challenging: volume and velocity. The trend is that both these features are going up. And the challenge is just about to increase: IDC predicts that the amount of worth analysing data will double by 2020.
Data is an invaluable and imperative enterprise asset. When collected and used properly, data can be one of any organisation’s biggest assets, together with their people and corporate culture. Data collection, classification and utilisation is easier said than done though. Information can come from different sources and functions; therefore, its collection, evaluation and use requires fully functional and collaborative teams and alignment with the business objectives. This in turn requires a well-established and generally accepted data culture within the organisation. The problem is, you cannot really fake a data culture. Either you have it, or you don’t and alas, many organisations don’t.
The Service Desk is a great paradigm. As IT has become a pivotal and central piece of many organisations, the Service Desk has evolved to be a critical component of the enterprise’s business strategy. It is the organisation’s shop window, a flowing communication stream with its customers.
During their daily interactions with customers, Support Analysts come across a significant amount of information that could (and should) be used by the organisation, since it can bear significant business and technical benefits: it can help accelerate change, document critical business decisions, anticipate performance bottlenecks, manage assets and resources more efficiently, identify potential vulnerabilities, assess risks, and, most importantly, improve customer satisfaction.
It can also help get customers’ feedback, understand the customers’ pain points and address them efficiently to improve quality of service.
Still, the quality of this information is questionable. The actual value of the information is dependent on its proper collection and use. If data is collected in a consistent and unbroken manner, the organisation should be able to analyse this data and extract insightful reports and conclusions. Should there be gaps in the collection process, the analysis will also be defective and any conclusions can be misleading or even wrong. The statement “Rubbish in Rubbish out” is a very accurate one.
While the Service Desk gets access to a lot of information, this information is only valuable if the team buys into it. Without great people following great process, the value of big data can be greatly diminished.
That’s why it is imperative that everyone is ready to embrace a data culture; one that puts the customer’s best interest in the heart of the business operations, acknowledges what the customer thinks and needs, and makes this information an indispensable part of the organisation’s strategy and operations. Data culture is in fact a customer-centric culture. And customer-centric cultures can be supported and reinforced by sophisticated IT Service Management technology, through the establishment of well tested and proven processes.
Sophisticated ITSM tools are built upon the theory that Processes are enablers for People and Businesses embarking on their journey to Digital Transformation. We all know that the vast majority of mistakes and delays are caused by human error; this risk factor can be significantly reduced or even eliminated if people follow the right process.
When it comes to big data, it’s not uncommon that people forget to (or neglect to) collect crucial information, due to a number of factors (lack of time, lack of interest, “what’s in it for me” or “not invented here” attitudes and lack of process, to name a few); jeopardising the quality and reliability of corporate data. Feature-rich ITSM systems employ automated generation of data, dynamic search, history and knowledge items and other tools that facilitate the collection of accurate information and accelerate the classification and analysis of data, while promoting the data culture across the team.
As the vast majority of unstructured (and most valuable) data comes from human interactions, so does exceptional service. The human factor is critical to improving customer experience. People can do so much better than systems; they can interact with other people, personalise their approach or pacify an upset customer. Assisted by a great ITSM tool, people can deliver what actually is an exceptional and memorable service.
Big data is an exciting, new and “full of possibilities” world. As we move forward, it is possible that new business models will be formed to satisfy the customers’ new and emerging needs; Data as a Service will probably be one of them. Big data will affect customer service in the years to come and it requires a culture about developing a better understanding of the customers’ needs and adjusting the organisation’s approach (or products or services) to satisfy these needs. Big data requires a culture that is built around customer service. A culture that the industry’s leading ITSM tools can support and reinforce.
We are still at the early adoption stage of big data and should expect increased challenges, including cultural change, to follow. While planning for their big data implementation projects, businesses should invest in the quality of their data and consider smart ITSM tools that support both good processes and cultural change, and enable the pinning of the organisation’s greatest assets, people, processes and technology, under a customer-centric culture.