While a growing number of businesses have been investing in big data analytics tools in the last year or so, opinions on the effectiveness of these solutions still varies. A recent study by Capgemini, for instance, found that while eight out of ten companies have such projects underway, just 27 per cent describe their efforts so far as successful.
There could be many reasons for this, such as organisations choosing the wrong technologies or not having the right skills on board to make the most of them. But one common problem may be simply that companies do not know what they want to achieve with their deployments, or how to accurately measure the performance of their activities.
This can mean they lack the right information to inform them of areas where their programmes are working well or can be improved. In turn, this can lead to promising leads not being followed up or strategies failing to take into account the insights big data can provide.
Why you need to show results
Being able to demonstrate results is also about more than just determining future strategy. In order for such initiatives to be successful, they will require buy-in from all parts of a company – not just the initiating department. This means getting both end-users and board members engaged with the technology and what the business is trying to achieve.
Senior executives in particular need to set the tone for the rest of the company and be advocates of this approach. But they won’t be willing to do this unless they can be convinced that big data analytics solutions are a wise investment.
Therefore, being able to demonstrate in real terms what impact such a move will have will be essential in ensuring big data and its use gets the support it needs to succeed. In many cases, however, this may be easier said than done, particularly if organisations aren’t clear on what they mean by measuring performance.
Understanding what you want to achieve
A key factor to remember is that every business will have its own unique definitions of success, so will seek to measure performance differently. Therefore, understanding what a good result will look like is vital in knowing what metrics to take into account when evaluating performance.
For example, some businesses may measure success purely in financial terms, either by analysing how much money they save or the amount of new business their organisation wins. But this is far from the only way performance can be measured.
One other way for a business to measure success will be the speed at which analytics operations are performed – timeliness has value; the amount of data captured, or productivity gains seen within the organisation. Elsewhere, businesses may rate performance by how their solutions engage with, and change, customer behaviour.
Turning findings into future strategy
However, understanding how you define and measure performance will only be half the task. Once this has been completed, it will then be essential that organisations use their findings to inform their overall strategy and translate their big data analytics processes into real-world value by adapting and refining departmental behaviour and changing the overall organisation attitudes and goals.
This is something that may be more difficult than it appears. While the tangible benefits of a deployment – such as its impact on the bottom line – will be straightforward to measure and act upon, there are many less obvious effects (like timeliness) that a big data programme may have on a business.
To uncover these, it will be important that users of the analytical solutions are educated in what the tools are capable of, and that people are asking the right questions when it comes to evaluating their success. Too often, these enquiries are limited to simply monetary terms, so companies fail to recognise the wider impact that a big data analytics solution will have on the way they operate or how their customers perceive them and their products or services.
By taking a more holistic ‘wide’ view and spotting and paying close attention to less obvious hidden benefits, businesses stand a much better chance of delivering a real return on investment and understand where the true value of their big data investment lies.