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Can Big Data Uncover Growth Opportunities?
We live in a world that is being reshaped by the pervasive nature of digital technology. Businesses, non-profits, governments and communities are constantly evaluating how digital technology and the big data that comes with that technology can be used in a productive and profitable way. The Internet of Things is expected to continue to transform every aspect of our lives and big data is being used in various ways that better serves a population or a business.
The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. Not only is this outbreak occurring in countries with very low health care spend, but it has also reached areas that contain large cities where the population has more than doubled since Ebola was first recorded in 1976. Big data analytics have recently come into play through the intricate web of mobile phones that exist widely even in the poorest countries of Africa. Authorities are currently using voice and text data from thousands of mobile phones to determine the best locations for new treatment centers and to track people’s movements in order to issue travel advisories and check-points. In this big data analytics example, numbers and locations that may have seemed useless are able to paint a picture as to how a disease outbreak is spreading.
Big Data or Big Headaches?
The use of data from mobile phones is one example of the many touch points of digital technology that exist in our world. In various business-to-business (B2B) markets, the abundance of smart machines with sensors creates massive amounts of data that not everyone knows what to do with. When speaking with business-to-business executives on this topic, Blue Canyon often hears that too much data is the problem because it is more challenging to turn big data into relevant insights. Many companies have invested in expensive systems to collect, store, and manipulate the data, but have learned the hard way that if the data cannot be conditioned or analyzed easily it adds little to no value.
Making use of big data is an art that many of our B2B clients wrestle with. Often referred to as DRIP, businesses in the industrial sector often find themselves Data Rich, Information Poor. Unlike industries such as advertising and finance, manufacturing and other industrial sectors are more familiar working with hardware and machinery than software. The software applications in these industries are in catch-up mode to handle the various new data points being collected. Although more data is collected across many different operational platforms, it may only be reviewed once a week by a maintenance manager and only at a high level. Many of these maintenance managers feel as though they need to make better use of the current data they have before thinking about collecting more data from different areas in their plant.
One Potential Solution
One of the most beneficial ways to use big data is to use information to visualize gaps in production or services. For example, when working with a large equipment manufacturer, Blue Canyon was able to use distribution and contractor locations to determine, geographically, where gaps existed with potential customers. There were many potential customers that were not within a specific amount of driving time to one of our client’s locations. Similar to the current case of Ebola, this exercise of mapping out data showed gaps that our client could address. This is key information to know, and although the client had the raw data, it had not yet been analyzed or observed in a way that enabled them to act and increase their profits.
Big data techniques can uncover growth opportunities by offering B2B companies the potential to bring more value to their customers. This can be done in many ways—from filling in service gaps to making it easier to understand when and what maintenance needs to be done to improving inventory management, reducing waste, etc. Once value creation is identified, suppliers will be rewarded in return.