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Big data analytics is great but it’s no silver bullet

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A lot of the talk around big data analytics focuses on the sheer amount of data, the speed of inputs and the glitzy visualizations that can result from analysis. But if you focus on all those bells and whistles before really thinking through the problems you need to solve, you’re putting the cart before the horse, according to two business users of the technology.

“It’s about putting the business question first. In marketing, where my experience is, it’s clear if you’re driving program success by leveraging vast volumes of data, having the correct problem and … then having an answer that can show why you did what you did,” Mohan Namboodiri, VP of customer analytics at Williams-Sonoma, told attendees of GigaOM’s Structure Data event in New York.

John Sothan,  VP of finance for BuildDirect, agreed. “The way to turn data into insight is to squash the notion that big data is a silver bullet. We preach that data and analytics is important but then we empower people to be curious and ask questions and get involved in big data analytics.”

“We need to teach users to cut into the data and be curious — that helps validate the data and without that people have a hard time trusting it,” Sothan added.

Both speakers said analytics help optimize their supply chain and better target their marketing, with the hopeful  result being more business going to existing customers and bringing new customers into the fold.

Ensuring that people are involved in the data and analytics process has been a recurring theme at Structure Data, with speaker after speaker talking about the need to incorporate human expertise into the whole process.

Check out the rest of our Structure:Data 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

A transcription of the video follows on the next page

3 Responses to “Big data analytics is great but it’s no silver bullet”

  1. What is old is new again. I was involved in analyzing big data sets (for micro targeting) over 15 years ago, and I am sure I was not pioneering it. The message was the same back then: collecting lots of data and having powerful analytical tools do not provide answers or insights. It takes smart, curious people who are dedicated to finding the insights that really make it work. Skimping on investing in people means the company will have fewer opportunities for success.

  2. Bruno Aziza

    In my opinion, Analytics is the biggest area of leverage for the space.

    We’ve invested a lot in the pipe and infrastructure for big data so far. Customers are now asking how they can take full advantage of it.

    Analytics might not be a silver bullet, but it’s Big Data’s “killer app”.