Data strategy: time to plan for big data

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It’s time to talk data strategy.

Whether we think about organisations as a whole or a humble marketing campaign, everyone needs to have a clearly articulated, commonly understood idea about how they are using data.

In marketing, data has often been contained within the research and measurement phases of a programme. Recently, with the growth of earned media and realtime metrics, it has crept into execution, but too often in a supporting role.

McKinsey & Co’s David Court, writing for HBR Blog Network, sees big data in a similar place to strategy 40 years ago:

only a few companies developed well-thought-out strategic plans. Some of those pioneers achieved impressive results, and before long a wide range of organizations were harnessing the then-new planning tools and frameworks. Today hardly anyone sets off without some kind of strategic plan. So too, we believe developing a data and analytics plan soon will be seen by most executives as the essential first step toward harnessing big data.

Many companies are approaching big data with a search for solutions, leading to purchases of technology and services without thinking about what the organisation’s strategy requires.

Big data isn’t a challenge, or a tactical opportunity. Like social media before it, it is a shift in the strategic landscape, a change in how the world works, with all the implications for new possibilities and threats that that implies.

The answer, simply put, is to develop a plan. It may sound obvious, but in our experience, most companies fail to put in the time required to create a simple plan for how data, analytics, front-line tools, and people can come together to create business value. The power of a plan is that it provides a common language that allows senior executives, technology professionals, data scientists, and managers to talk through where the greatest returns will come from, and more importantly, select the two or three places to get started.

As true for marketing as it is for the whole business. Just like social media, the issues around big data scale from an individual level to whole organisations and industries.

: : To understand more about big data, I’ve been reading and hugely enjoying Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think – it’s a great primer on this topic.