Big data is Dead, or Big Data* is really a Big Headache

Specifically, for 99% of companies, big data is dead before we even started talking about it. Why? Because it is a vast, vague and unfriendly term for businesses to grapple with.  As a core business-building concept, big data is dead because most companies cannot even cope with small data. {Click here to Tweet!}.  As Mitch Joel said recently, “most businesses are terrible at small data,” such as linear (email, direct marketing, etc.) and circular (semantics, social…) data.  

Just think how many times in the past, marketing teams created incentives requiring personal data from their  own or potential customers and, yet, the goldmine of information lay on postcards in a cardboard box under the desk until the next product marketing manager arrived and jettisoned them in disgust (at the dust).

Big data requires a new marketing mindset

If it were not enough that brands do not truly indulge in customer centricity, the scale and complexity of collecting, collating and exploiting the reams of uncoordinated and real-time data is beyond the scope of most mid-tier managers, much less older managers who were — and for the large part, still are — old school marketers.

Start with the small data

Big Data is Dead, Social CRM, The Myndset digital marketing

Before tackling big data, companies should look to improve how they manage small data.  That is the personalized, relevant data at the granular level and includes the grand opportunities in social.  The challenges with big data are beyond technological (e.g. finding the right, affordable database system).  They include legal issues (privacy, personal data management/opt-in) as well as creating an editorial line that, over time, will make customers be thankful to be a part of one’s contact list.

Sophisticating Customer Relationship Managment

I like to say that there are three levels of CRM, in ascending order of complexity and power:

  1. Basic or linear CRM (credit to Mitch) – using email, mobile, direct marketing
  2. Social CRM – integrating social media
  3. Big Data CRM – geolocation, real time, multi-platforms…

The issue is mobilizing all the necessary parties to access and distribute the relevant customer information without suffering from archaic organizational structures and me-me-me mentalities.  Geting from #1 to #2 is already a sizeable effort.

Data Visualization

Data Visualization - Big Data is Dead
Data visualization – or Rorschach Test?

A subject that could be a subset of big data management is the visualization of data.  There are increasingly more sophisticated tools out there that help to render the data visual and/or understandable (read here on some other data visualization tools).  It’s not about the data, after all.  It’s what you do with the data that counts. {Click to Tweet!}.  Once you have collected the data, the question then becomes how to interpret it, to create useful customer insights, or as we say in the jargon customer intelligence

Big Data ROI

If big data is dead, it isn’t because it doesn’t exist. It is more that managing big data is like having brands trying to run before they can walk. Pure player companies, which did not start off with an offline customer base, which are managed by data geeks and who are de facto obsessed with customer centricity are going to be better able to make heads and tails of the big data coin toss. [Read: Amazon, Gilt…] But, for the others, the quest for a big data ROI will likely be the fortune of external consultants.  {Click to Tweet!}

First off, companies running up the big data flagpole will be stuck searching for a user-friendly, affordable database management system that integrates into their infrastructure. They will be faced with teams that don’t work together seamlessly. They will struggle to have the agility to stay up in real time with the latest sources of information in order to keep a complete customer profile, much less interact with those customers spontaneously and authentically.

Big data is more about a mindset than a data set.  {Click to Tweet}  That is why it is dead in the water for most companies.

I await your rebuttals or affirmations!

*See here for a definition from SmartDataCollective [link defunct] of Big Data: A phenomenon defined by the rapid acceleration in the expanding volume of high velocity, complex and diverse types of data. Big Data is often defined along three dimensions– volume, velocity and variety.

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