Home' Forge : Vol 2 No 2 Contents 'I have always been surprised
that when a problem comes up,
they have no idea how to go and
look at that data, let alone actually
analyse it,' Henstridge says. 'These
are organisations that have quite
well-qualifed professional staff –
engineers and chemists, and so on.
But they are just not used to seeing
the answers in the data.
'In some cases ... they say they
know they have got all this data.
But when you try to get the data
out of them, it is clear they have
never tried to do it in the past.
Management, including technical
management, is not seeing the
data as a resource that should be
How, then, should businesses
approach the new challenges posed
by big data? Mark Cameron, chief
executive of data consultancy Working
Three, says companies should start by
thinking about their brands.
'Data is the new soil, it is not the
new oil,' he says. 'If you are using
data well, it should be an expression
of your brand. You should ask
how it will help you understand
and move forward, rather than
just [helping you] send out better
Cameron points to the data
management strategy of Nike as
an example of how the issue can
be intelligently approached. He
says Nike could have collected
any data they wanted, but they
started by asking what their
brand was about.
'They decided they were not about
shoes and clothing, but about
performance -- and they built a
data set around that,' he says. 'If
a company doesn't have a clear
strategy to strengthen the customer
relationship and experience, then
they will end up spending a huge
amount of money collecting and
analysing data before they even
ask questions about how to use it.
Strategy equals effciency.’
Another question facing businesses
is how to organise the various types
of data into a form that is useful.
This can often require signifcant
investments in information
technology infrastructure for the
organisation, which increases the
fnancial risk should the results
prove to be disappointing.
Vinay Samuel, chief executive and
founder of big data analytic frm
Zetaris, says that many Australian
businesses are fnding that the results
of their efforts are not what they had
hoped. He says there have been many
attempts to build big data capabilities
from open-source software, but often
the results disappoint.
A data system has to do a number
of different things, according to
Samuel. It has to be able to deal
with short queries, and 'longer,
deeper analytical queries that take
two to three hours to work out'. It
has to be able to collect information
from all parts of the organisation.
'The traditional approach is to
put it all onto one platform,' says
Samuel. 'The trouble with that is
that it is a long, hard project when
the data is in different shapes.' The
better approach, he says, is to bring
the data back as the 'answer set to
Another requirement, says
Samuel, is to ensure that there is
a common computer language
across the different parts of the
organisation. There also needs to
be a single schema for all the data
that is collected, so its relevance
to the whole organisation can be
Bhattacharjya says making all of
the information available for all
stakeholders to access on 'one
dashboard’ is especially diffcult
with unstructured data. 'That is a
challenge we are far from being able
to overcome,' she says. 'In Australia,
we have a large number of small
businesses, and they don't have
the same kind of cash to play with.
They are a lot more cautious making
use of that data.
'That doesn't mean they are not on
the social platforms and developing
large volumes of data already. In
the last two or three years, I have
seen small businesses go online and
engage a lot more with customers.
The next step, then, is to make good
use of this data to develop strategies.
How do you approach customers?
How do you target them for different
advertising campaigns based on all
this data you are generating?'
Other challenges, says
Bhattacharjya, are to train staff
well and to hire the right people.
'You need to make sure you have
the right set of skills when you are
hiring. They must be able to go
beyond the Excel spreadsheet.'
A skill area that requires special
attention is statistical analysis,
says Henstridge, who is also vice-
president of the Statistical Society
22 // cover story
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