Big Data

The Solution that Could Revolutionize Your Business

By Dan Sorensen

March 12, 2014

Big data is quickly moving from a technology buzzword to an everyday strategy for businesses of all sizes. Ultimately, big data is all about finding answers to unique, complex questions.

Just a few years ago, big data was looked at as a mystery, and its capabilities were not thoroughly understood. While its potential is still far from maximized, it has quickly permeated many aspects of our lives—sometimes in the most unlikely of places—driving product adoption and inspiring other companies to answer their questions through the power of big data.

Recognizing the Power

Big data is a blanket term given to the analysis of large amounts of data and the extraction of value from this information. It’s important to understand that big data does not truly occur until value can be distilled from unstructured data, like customer information, product sales, GPS data or internet traffic.

While many companies may not yet have a big data strategy, or grasp the potential growth it could drive for their businesses, as consumers we’ve all experienced it through various online experiences and interactions.

Pandora, or any other online music service, is a great example of the true power of big data. Prior to a song being available on Pandora, each track is categorized as part of the company’s Music Genome Project using approximately 400 attributes. This is how Pandora brings order to its unstructured data.

Once the music is categorized, Pandora uses its powerful algorithm and years of data to predict what type of music you’d like to listen to based on the station you’ve selected, the songs you’ve liked and the listening preferences of users with similar interests.

This big-data approach allows Pandora to deliver a tailored listening experience to each one of its users in a matter of microseconds. With each “like” or “dislike,” stations evolve in real time to be better customized to a person’s unique preferences. Not only does this create a better listening experience for the user, but it also saves Pandora money in licensing costs, as the company pays each time a song is played.

Building Better Relationships

Many big-data solutions can empower companies to better serve customers. South Jordan-based Allegiance specializes in helping businesses better understand their customers through unique big-data solutions.

“The holy grail of big data would be that a company can treat you as the most important customer because they know enough about you,” says Chris Cottle, Allegiance executive vice president of marketing. “Whether it’s a mobile phone, purchase transaction or how we’re surfing the web, all that data is being collected. If it’s utilized to improve the customer experience, customer service or customer relationship better, then there is value in it.”

Big data service providers like Allegiance analyze their client’s data to identify trends, empowering them to improve business operations. This service allows companies to take action through a better understanding of their customers; however, the true value comes in the speed at which companies can take action. Waiting a month to respond to a potential customer issue ultimately provides little benefit—but responding before a customer even recognizes the issue at hand can make solving issues much easier.

“Customers' needs and wants sometimes last months, or even years, but others last just seconds,” says Mat Young, Fusion-io data propulsion lab senior director. “Building fast big-data solutions, combined with optimizing your line of business applications, gives companies the platform to never miss a chance to connect with customers. Not only does this close alignment deliver better service and satisfaction but it generates customer loyalty.”

Finding the Story

Nearly every company generates data. The value of big data happens when companies identify stories within these datasets.

“The growing opportunity in big data is the ability to process large amounts of unstructured, disparate data and find threads of opportunity or little storylines that are impactful,” says Cottle. “Those only mean something if they can be applied toward action. Companies can take the time to find those storylines and make the customer relationship better.”

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