Many of us are tired of people talking about big data. At the same time, we continue to be excited by its possibilities. It's just that, in most cases, all this golden information is yet to be converted into something meaningful that will make a difference with customers and impact the bottom line as a result. In many businesses it's still in nugget form - and yet to be made into the compelling jewellery that will attract and sell.
The good news is that we are past the first stage. C-level executives are now seeing data as a business asset, rather than a by-product of operations or merely something that the IT department needs to store and manage. Board-level conversations are no longer focused on historical data in the latest financial reports, but on how to get real-time access to current data to shape strategies and help improve decision-making.
It is vital today that data is used for these strategic purposes and each executive around the board table will have their own uses and their own reasons to apply analytics. CEOs will want to use it to plan future direction and CFOs want to detect fraud. CMOs can use it for better targeting and HR directors are looking forward to getting hold of information on staff retention and talent development.
But now it's been taken up by senior management in many companies, it's time to push it out to the front line - to sales and the customer service analysts to provide them with the insight and understanding they need when they answer the phone, or visit a prospect.
So far, some of the best applications of data analytics have been those that can help businesses take better care of their customers. A good example of this is how big data can help an airline to optimise its charges on each flight. Right now, this only happens at a strategic level. If a customer service agent could access data to give a customer the best price according to their sales history or other defined parameters, then this would really help improve customer loyalty and give a business a real edge over competitors.
It needs simple, useable tools to ensure front line staff use the information. It will also require some training budget.
However, there's a hold-up here as many C-level executives are not ready to translate the data so it has value to those manning the phones or who take up other positions in the customer-facing front
line. Of course, there are vital issues around data management, data governance and trust before to consider. But it's the inevitable conclusion of the big data story - and I believe it should and will happen soon.