Big Data is big news. If you’re feeling like you need to jump on the Big Data train, you’re not alone. In fact, 62 percent of businesses believe Big Data can give them a competitive advantage. But the success behind using Big Data analytics needs to be more than belief. A recent study shows just <4% of companies surveyed are applying good Big Data practices.; If Big Data strategies are successfully implemented, the results are highly profitable. Companies that successfully implement Business Intelligence (BI) are 23 times more likely to outperform their competitors in customer acquisition and 9 times more likely to garner customer loyalty.; Most businesses are sitting on a goldmine of important data from transaction records, customer histories, and client profiles to unstructured social media data. Many companies understand the potential of Big Data for taking advantage of new BI insights but are unprepared for taking advantage of their data.

Barriers to Data Analytics

To be certain, there are problems with the current methods — or lack of methods — of using Big Data. “Big Data,” asserts a Salesforce report, “is a buzzword that has failed to deliver the actionable insight businesses need.” The lag between data and effective Big Data analytics tools can be attributed to lack of trained data professionals, inadequate data visualization tools, and a lack of software. Most troubling, however, is the lack of understanding about Big Data and the failure of organizations to understand exactly how to use data analytics to improve their sales and operations.

Data Science Talent Shortage

Most organizations lack the talent to engage in Big Data analytics. According to a McKinsey Report, “There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

Lack of Visualization in Data Discovery Tools

Another barrier is data discovery tools which help data analysts mine data but doesn’t provide a visual output to help others in the company see the value of the data. “Visualization helps put data into context and bring business cases to life. In many cases, advanced visualization capabilities allow organizations to glean insights that would be impossible otherwise,” explains Thor Olavsrud for CIO.

Limited Data Analysis Software

Part of the lack of data visualization tools comes from the wrong software. Many organizations’ data is kept in “information silos,” meaning that BI data that could provide actionable insights isn’t available to the entire organization. If your software isn’t powerful, customizable, or mobile, it is difficult to get the results you want. Useful Big Data software will discover actionable Business Intelligence and be accessible throughout the organization, not just IT. Exploration and queries should be a function of data discovery tools everyone in the organization can employ, a feature very difficult to get from desktop computing.

Inadequate Definition and Knowledge of Big Data

At the heart of the Big Data problem is a lack of elemental understanding about just what Big Data is. It’s “a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate,” say the Wikipedia definition.

Data sets that are large and complex involve massive amounts of unstructured data, such as data from social media interactions. This data can give valuable insight into the why behind customer behavior. Unstructured social media data helps fill in the gaps, but it’s not a catch all. According to one report, as few as 29 percent of customers are actually engaged on social media to the degree that they leave a trail of unstructured data. Because not all customers are involved in social media interactions, insight-based decisions for the entire clientele based on the 29% engagement rate isn’t a good practice.

Make Certain the Big Data Trend Serves Your Organization

Aside from the problem unstructured data presents, there is a more fundamental debate over what, exactly, Big Data really means for your organization. One definition of Big Data offered is: “A new attitude by businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals that combining data from multiple sources could lead to better decisions.” This definition lends itself to the heart of what Big Data can do for your organization.

How Can Your Company Overcome Obstacles to Successfully Use Big Data?

As the definition of states above, Big Data should be an attitude. The ultimate end of Big Data should be to increase sales, decrease operating costs, and gain new insights. Ironically, most businesses already have the data but don’t know what to do with it.

You may already have the tools — take full advantage of your CRM

Think you don’t have the tools to analyze big data? Think again.

Many feel they have inadequate tools and get caught in a cycle of not having the right tools and feeling they need to invest more. The truth is — many organizations probably already have the right tools but don’t know it.

Your company is likely sitting on a wealth of data already. Most companies already have the tools to analyze that data, write Jeanne W. Ross, Cynthia M. Beath, and Anne Quaadgras in the Harvard Business Review. Most companies, they report, are not taking full advantage of their CRM programs and “have not yet cashed in on the information those platforms make available.” CRM reports can be used to analyze your existing data to inform your objectives. For instance, running a report on all X products purchased by time period and location can show you trends. A region that has purchased X product more than other regions would warrant more attention and effort during the said time period.


Using Joined Reports to Analyze Data

In Salesforce CRM, the joined reports feature offers the ability to compare different data sets and gain insight into improving sales and operating processes. Other CRM programs might call this feature combined reporting. Having real-time CRM and data reporting across the organization allows all users — not just IT — the ability to explore the organization’s existing data.

But understanding which reports to run and how to interpret them takes time. “Companies don’t magically develop those competencies just because they’ve invested in high-end analytics tools. They first need to learn how to use the data already embedded in their core operating systems, much the way people must master arithmetic before they tackle algebra,” explain Ross, Beath, and Quaadgras.

Explore Existing Data Analytic Tools to Find What’s Right for Your Business

Before investing in expensive Big Data Analytics tools, make certain your company knows how to take advantage of the current data platforms in CRM and ERP. Ross, Beath, and Quaadgras explain, “This is not a story about big data, or even about big investments in data. This is a story about a lot of little data. More important, it’s about betting your business success on the ability of good people to use good data to make good decisions.” Having data analysis solutions that are available to the entire company and show data in visual formats are key to taking Big Data and making it actionable.

As you look for ways to improve Business Intelligence, recognize that Big Data software might not be the one-size-fits-all answer. Incorporating Big Data into your organization may simply be learning to use your existing CRM as your data analysis software as well.

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