Data and Automation: A New Hard Currency for Higher Efficiency
BY: LUCINDA WATROUS ON THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 2015
Some people believe money rules society, while others believe it is power. While neither is entirely wrong, they are both hollow points of view that miss the bigger picture, perhaps because they don’t have enough data. If success is a product, data is the currency used to acquire it. The people who understand this have invested in enormous amounts of resources either to buy big data analytics products or to support startups that provide these services.
Why is data such a large interest for most of these folks? Visibility. The more data you have about your customers and your industry, the more capable you are of noticing trends and acting upon these signals. Data-driven decisions enable you to think like your customer and out-think your competitor.
There’s a much longer answer, however, to why data is king:
Extend Your Reach
If you have a relatively organized business, you’re likely already collecting internal data about your customers, your sales, and other aspects of day-to-day operations. This, in itself, is a rich resource in determining what clicks and how to further optimize aspects of the business that needs fixing.
Data analytics enables you to go beyond your own walls.. Gaining insight outside of that scope might seem a bit counter-productive at first, which is why it’s easy to miss the bigger picture. The fact is, your business isn’t an island on its own. Finding and collecting data from external sources, like industry trends and other indicators, will help you understand how what you do plays into the greater scheme of things. This makes you more responsive to change and gives you better market agility.
Find Unforeseen Causalities
Insights can be derived from correlations and causalities that have previously not been discovered. Such insights can only be achieved if you have a large set of data to work with. Big data analytics empowers you to find even the most unlikely relationships from distinct sets of data that had previously not been associated.
For example, are women buying a product that you’ve been targeting towards men until now? Perhaps it’s time to market to them instead! People living in the southern district of your city are more likely to shower you with money? It’s probably time to start advertising there instead of wasting advertisement money on the northern district. Data collection and analytics not only gives you a significant ROI, but it also makes your customers feel better accommodated. On a subconscious level, they feel you are “speaking their language.”
Data Leads to Better Automation
Data-driven decisions are not necessarily made by humans. In fact, big data is often the driver for intelligence in automation. Such solutions can interpret data and act upon what they see without your intervention. For example, among load balancing technologies, Layer 7 load balancing has the advantage of being able to interpret traffic requests on a HTTP-level, rather than simply packet level (as is the case with Layer 4, as per the OSI).
Thus, a load balancing service like Incapsula’s cloud-based approach will be able to distinguish between a request for a large 100 megabyte video file and a request for a 1 kilobyte robots.txt file. The service then directs the traffic to the server that can best accommodate such a load. This happens within split-seconds, making Internet services more reliable. The efficiency gains often lead to cost savings on for the enterprise.
Another example is Panaya’s collaborative platform for ERP testing, which has collected years’ worth of data and experience in maintaining interconnected ERP software. The company has incorporated these into an automated process that can facilitate the ERP update, upgrade and patching procedures. This takes away the need to spend time, effort, and money in manually tracking bugs and testing for potential issues that can cause costly downtimes.
The things these solutions have in common is their ability to be almost “human” with their decision-making capabilities, putting certain aspects of your business that had previously been frustrating on cruise control.
Data Drives Innovation
To create something useful to a subset of all the people living in this busy little world, you need to know what appeals to them more. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. And all of this is the driving force behind an effective process of innovation.
Did you know that Barack Obama utilized big data heavily during his 2012 re-election campaign? The President’s team used big data analytics to optimize their campaign and communication strategies, thus determining where to best place their resources, cross-referencing voter data with demographics, and effectively segmenting their audience to ensure the best impact. While politics is still traditional business, in a sense, the use of big data has changed the way political players run their campaigns in future.
Let’s say you are producing tools for dentistry. As you look through data you’ve collected through surveys of multiple dentists, you find that their chief complaint is that the mouth mirrors they buy are not long enough to let them comfortably work on their patients. That’s an immediate signal -- “create a mirror with a longer handle, right now!” Acting upon it will give you a competitive edge over other dentistry tool producers.
What you do with your data, how you acquire it, and how adequate it is all play a significant role in whether your business will continue to grow and succeed. This is ultimately why 56 percent of businesses plan to up the ante on their big data investments in the next few years.
Image via: abc.net.au