As “Minority Report”-esque as it sounds, the capabilities of NYC’s new Domain Awareness System (DAS) are impressive. The system enables law enforcement a comprehensive view of the city through various sources of data (surveillance cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, etc.), which allows officials to quickly assess (and access) relevant information about potentially serious emergencies or threats. By using disparate data from various sources around the city, officials can connect the dots so as to “optimally deploy manpower.” This not only saves time and cost for the city, it also has the potential to reduce threats. Of course, it is very “big-brother” of NYC to adopt this system, but it is an example of Big Data at its best.
(P.S. If you’re a criminal wanting to fly under the radar, wait 30 days until your next spree. DAS purges its data every 30 days and you might be able to escape the patterns the city officials are looking for. Just don’t tell them I said so!)
The concept of big data is not new. We live in a world where each person creates endless data streams, and each digital product and service creates waves of information trailing behind it; the “big”-ness of data is the fact that so much of it is created every day. However, as more and more data points are created every day, the task of making sense of it all becomes a daunting task. This creates an unprecedented opportunity for businesses and entire industries to generate new insights and innovations form exploiting this big data.
The Fox School of Business’s Institute for Business and Information Technology’s Big Data Conference engaged industry and academic experts to discuss two key topics: 1) the potential of big data and the controversies related to its definition and value, and 2) best practices and exemplars for applying big data to transform how we view the world around us. The conference was organized around specific, practical examples, best practices, and state-of-the-art applications that demonstrated business value. Subtopics included fraud detection, customer trends, safety and compliance, media impact, and others.
Big data has the potential to disrupt many established industries from healthcare, to governmental activities. This changing “technological” factor puts extreme pressure on many cross-industry forces. For example: as the barriers to collect data lower (by higher availability of inexpensive data-collection or data-interpretation systems), the rivalry within industries increases. This can be seen in the proliferation of social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, etc) which utilize “free” social data to understand buyer behavior. Additionally, big data changes the power suppliers have across various industries. In healthcare, electronic medical records put power in doctors’ hands to understand a patient holistically. By utilizing insights from big data, the healthcare industry becomes much more focused on the input of data in order to make the output (patient care) more efficient. This inevitably reduces unnecessary costs that are incurred throughout the process.
The conference was concluded with seven big takeaways. The first of which was to “view big data as a business opportunity.” The guests and speakers of the conference unanimously understand that big data is a powerful tool, but interpreting the data into meaningful and actionable opportunities is the next greatest step in harnessing the value of big data. The final takeaway was “think big.” Play-on-words aside, big data has big opportunities. Being able to cross-functionally and cross-industry collaborate with data collected at every point of the value chain puts much power in the end-user’s hands (the example presented in the Open Data Philly movement, a part of Data.gov’s initiatives). Businesses will want to position themselves in a way that allows them to think creatively and innovatively about what data to collect that will be meaningful to them in the future. It’s a game that involves looking around the corner and strategically predicting what information the business will need in the future. By arming itself with data, and the tools to capture, analyze, and store data, businesses can harness the endless opportunities of big data.
What do you think about Big Data? How is your company approaching the big opportunity of Big Data?
The lessons learned in woodshop and other crafts-making courses in grade school are crucial to keep in mind in the electronic age – Measure twice, cut once. Make sure that you have accurate and precise measurements before making business decisions. Realistically, this first means that your team must collect and record measurements. This seems like a no-brainer activity (it’s never a wise decision to make decisions without information, purely in a vacuum), but it astounds me that so many companies continue business-as-usual without business intelligence systems in place to collect and analyze organizational data.
While some believe dashboards are only a “trend,” dashboards which visually represent business data can be powerful tools to align metrics with the strategic goals of the company. Frequently analyzing data in context of these strategic goals ensure that the company is performing activities that always move towards the company’s core value proposition.
One basic, yet powerful, dashboard tool for those maintaining personal or corporate websites, is Google Analytics. Search Engine Watch has a great write up about using dashboards for better insights. But from SAP, to Amazon and Google, many organizations specialize in selling their proprietary dashboard tools to businesses who need organized data on their internal systems and processes – true BI systems. Dashboards can be set up for anything from marketing to technology departments – any department can (and should!) use forecasting and predictive measures to inform their decision-making. Successful organizations are shifting from decisions driven by beliefs, ideology and past experiences, to evidence based management (Pfeffer, & Sutton, 2006).
To other business analysts out there, what tools do you use to measure twice, cut once?