Beware: Big Data Without Action Equals Nothing

planet made of bits

Over the past few weeks, articles I have read and some events I have attended have been focusing on the theme of “Big Data.” Multiple authors and speakers discussed how the need for big data was coming in many industries so that owners could manage their businesses more effectively. The comments concerned utilizing this data in terms of their website analytics, to provide a better experience for their visitors.

We saw data for social engagement, customer behavior, website lead forms, and even a customer’s total online experience. We also heard the argument that “data for data’s sake” was just adding more information on an already overloaded business owner.

What to do? Who to believe?

My feeling is that data is important. But, inherently there are challenges that businesses face. For instance, many industries do not have common standards as to what each metric means for their business.

In terms of a website, words like “conversion,” “impression,” “click,” “visitor,” etc., can mean different things to different people. Companies can make data sound great, because they are funneling it through what they want those numbers to say in order to showcase their efforts.

Big data should take away the emotional aspect of running a business. I recently saw Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics, speak about how he would not watch the games, because he didn’t want how he felt about a player to influence decisions he may have to make, based on the metrics he was using.

I agree. I have been guilty of this myself. I have heard myself make allowances for an employee’s performance, because I know about their personal issues. One of the best lessons I learned was to cover up the person’s name, look at the results, and then make my decision. Then uncover their name and see if my decision would change. Try it sometime. It is enlightening.

But more importantly for me is that “big data,” or any data without a process for action, is a waste of time and energy. What are you going to do with the data? How is it impacting what you are currently doing, and how will this new information change your process of doing business.

If we see that more people are going to the website, do we adjust spending on some other part of your marketing? Would an increase in one department mean more staffing, training, etc.? If you see efficiencies in your distribution or delivery mechanism, are you changing the process to reflect this? Too many companies go with the “hope” factor when change comes.

Here is a list of items you should look to address when looking at big data:

  1. What does the data tell us?

  2. What does it mean in terms of what we are currently doing?

  3. Does it have any impact on process? If so, what does it mean?

  4. What is the change that needs to happen?

  5. How will this change be implemented?

  6. What training needs to happen?

  7. What accountability measures need to be put in place?

  8. Who will monitor this in the future?

  9. What data set is next to review?

All of this has to happen, or big data becomes a big pile of nothing on the desk of leadership.

Let me know your thoughts.

Glenn Pasch is the COO of PCG Digital Marketing as well as a National Speaker and Trainer.

Michael Bowen


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