Big Data: Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Posted by Lucy Halliday On May 12, 2014

Data analytics is a rapidly exploding field within Australian businesses, with different organisations and industries across the country at different stages of maturity. ADMA estimate that around 30% of Australian businesses are currently at some point on the big data continuum between data discovery and data commercialisation.

The potential value of all of the data available to enterprises and SME’s cannot be underestimated; fact is, in our Information Age the competitive advantage will rest with those businesses who are best able to harness their data in order to make real-time decisions that protect their customer base and grow market share. The question is, of this 30% how many are making the most of their data?

In November last year, Hitachi Data Systems Corporation (HDS) released a survey of Australian and New Zealand businesses which revealed that despite our eagerness to implement big data projects, we still had a couple of genuine hurdles to overcome. The first issue is an organisations big data strategic skills, the second issue is its quality of internal communication.

According to Neville Vincent, senior vice president and general manager, HDS APAC who commissioned the “The Hype and the Hope: The Road to Big Data Adoption in Asia-Pacific” report, the key challenge for organisations hoping to generate returns from big data was acquiring the right skill sets and managing communication better across the enterprise and between departments.

One of the most common examples of poor cross departmental communication on big data projects is seen when you consider the recently emerged organisational imperative of achieving a Single Customer View. Typically the goal of the SCV is simple – by better understanding its customer base an organisation is better able to achieve a bottom line return from said customer base. The problem, however, is that achieving a SCV is usually the goal of a siloed department like sales or marketing.

Joel Nicholson, Managing Director of Marketsoft, believes that the issue of different stakeholders having different goals isn’t just a Big Data project specific problem; rather it’s one that is a common enterprise and SME problem that spans industries and organisations.

“Over the past decade almost all SCV implementations have failed to meet expectations and key requirements of stakeholders. Westpac have invested $20million+ into their SCV over this time and are still yet to claim a success. Westpac’s executive Peter Hanlon suggested the root challenge was scope creep as each stakeholders layered on new needs through the project,” he said.

“The SCV project tries to fulfil many purposes at once, and therefore ends up being a Jack of all trades and master of none, which is essentially a micro version of the cross-departmental communications challenge that many large organisations face,” he said. “An SCV project has a different purpose for customer service, which is different to acquisition marketing, which is different to retention marketing again. The finance area will have their different requirements, the analytics team will be different again and the list goes on.”

This core difficulty on Big Data projects is simply an extrapolation of a central issue many organisations face: fostering genuine cross-departmental collaboration wherein all departments are aligned, not just a select few. So the pressing question becomes: if many companies are already having difficulty achieving entity-wide cross departmental collaboration, and collaboration is essential to Big Data project success, how can any business expect to be able to achieve sustainable bottom line returns from their data analytics if they’re not stopping, collaborating and listening?


Lucy Halliday