Marrying big data with human judgement: looking to the future

Big data and business intelligence have significant roles to play in the future of businesses, and the technology can be an invaluable partner for organisations – providing leaders continue to rely most heavily on their expertise, knowledge and intuition, says Nick Devine

While there’s no question that emerging technologies like AI and machine learning are changing the way we work, the concept of machines replacing humans is nothing more than fantasy. Indeed, as our reliance on technology for business insights and intelligence increases, human experience, expertise and intuition remain fundamental to the overall formula.

Therefore, businesses should show less concern for their growing reliance on technology, and instead focus on ensuring that such tech aligns with their business goals and objectives – the very essence of which rests in our laps. Big data, AI and business intelligence; whatever the approach, such technology should complement, not hinder, our own knowledge and expertise.

But how exactly can you ensure that the two marry together? And what processes can you put in place to ensure you’re getting the very most from your investment in big data and business intelligence technology – both now and in the future?

Here, we’ll share our advice and expertise on using big data and business intelligence to your advantage. Covering best-practice tips and common pitfalls to avoid, our guide can help you steer the right course and look to the future when onboarding tactical business tech within your organisation.

Best-practice tips for business leaders on using big data

Big data is a relatively new concept, and many businesses, particularly SMEs, will be yet to harness, or even realise, its potential. But make no mistake: this form of business discovery looks set to proliferate over the next decade, so getting a grasp on how to put it to use now will set you on the right path towards making it work for your business in the future.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best-practice tips we can offer for businesses looking to make big data and business intelligence part of their decision-making framework.

Begin by identifying business challenges and objectives

Investing resources in big data technology is a sizeable commitment. That’s why it’s so important that this next-gen tech is delivering results from implementation onwards; results which align with your key business objectives and aspirations for growth.

Before the implementation stage, and indeed before even considering the use of big data, you should take the time to gather key business requirements, as well as any pain points and challenges. Such insights will bring focus and clarity to the purpose of technological investment – essential when ensuring buy-in from senior stakeholders and the board.

Aligning the functionality of big data discovery tools with your requirements and processes will help determine the value such technology will bring in the long and short term.

Understand the purpose of big data

As is so often the case with technological advancement; you shouldn’t confuse big data as just another IT service. While analytics tools can often be pigeonholed within the field of IT, big data has the power to transform every business function – so be sure you understand its purpose and put it to use accordingly.

We’re yet to fully comprehend the potential of big data and business intelligence. But what is clear is that it can bolster any number of business functions and activities, helping personnel spot new opportunities and improve efficiencies across their workflows – reducing costs in the process.

Take an agile approach to implementation

While it’s important to hit the ground running off the back of big data implementation, an agile approach is necessary to stay abreast of changes and fully understand the capabilities of the technology. An agile, flexible approach not only provides quick wins in the interim, but the knowledge that your team is less likely to encounter sizeable hiccoughs later on down the road.

When implementing a big data project, consider the end goal while targeting manageable, high-value opportunities. This will ensure you become well-versed in the technology whilst making small moves forward, so you’ll benefit from immediate ROI and a system that’s geared towards your goals and objectives.

Common big data pitfalls – and how to avoid them

From implementation challenges to a lack of knowledge and training; many big data projects don’t go the distance. In fact, statistics tell us that over 60% fail – putting a huge amount of pressure and strain on already resource-strapped organisations.

So, while the benefits of big data and business analytics are plentiful, it’s critical that you take the right steps, and invest adequate resource, into ensuring that your first steps into big data decision-making go off without a hitch.

To help, here are some of the most common big data pitfalls to avoid:

  • Lack of vision and clarity – rather than relying on the technology to point you in the direction of valuable opportunities and discoveries, it’s important to have a clear vision of what you hope to gain from the tech. A lack of vision early on can lead to wasted opportunities later down the line, which is why it’s so important to set clear goals and objectives, as covered in the section above.
  • Overreliance on small data samples – getting to grips with the scope of big data is critical to avoid leaning too heavily on small data sets. Often, decision-critical variances, patterns and trends can only be viewed at a broad level, so you risk relying on misleading data by looking at small samples only.
  • A lack of data-centric system architecture – the data you collate is only of value if it can be readily accessed by all the functions of the business. A lack of centralised data unity can cause unnecessary inefficiencies, as well as disagreements between teams and departments. Consider your system architecture carefully before investing in a big data project.
  • General overreliance on the technology – one of the biggest problems we see when businesses integrate big data solutions relates to their overreliance on the technology. Often, data discovery is viewed as a silver bullet, with algorithms there to replace human intelligence and intuition; this isn’t the case. Instead, businesses should use the technology strategically, aligning it with key business objectives and putting it to use within the framework of existing business functions.

There’s no denying that big data and business intelligence have a significant role to play in the future of businesses big and small.

Offering actionable insights and process enhancement, the technology can be an invaluable partner for organisations in every sector – providing they implement it correctly, and continue to rely most heavily on their expertise, knowledge and intuition.

Nick Devine is Director and Founder at software consultancy, JS3 Global.

JS3 Global delivers digital transformation consultancy to clients operating in industries such as automotive, aerospace and manufacturing – helping hundreds of organisations globally achieve their project goals. 

Nick has 20+ years’ experience leading high-performance teams – particularly in the business development and technology space.

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