So how big is big data? And why is it important to all of us involved with deploying marketing automation and Revenue Performance Management (RPM) to drive profitable, sustainable growth? On the bigness question, consider this: Cisco has forecast that by 2013, the amount of traffic flowing over the internet annually will reach 667 exabytes. Just to put that in perspective, one exabyte of data is the equivalent of more than 4,000 times the information stored in the US Library of Congress.
What really has pushed big data into the business spotlight is the growing accessibility of powerful data analytics that enable marketing and sales departments (i.e., everyone at your company concerned with growing revenue) to really make sense of all of that information. And to use it to develop deep insights and support real-time decision making that improves revenue performance.
Big Data as the ‘Next Frontier’
Last year, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) conducted a major research study on big data, calling it “the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.” Noting that big data is becoming even more valuable as our analytical and computing abilities continue to expand, the MGI study stated: “Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.” There certainly is a lot there for revenue executives to ponder.
Unquestionably, big data is already having a profound impact on business, and especially marketing. In a blog post last year on the rise of data analytics, I talked about how corporations and brands are now increasingly able to “connect the dots” of those oceans of data and previously unusable information to create actionable insights that drive big time results.
Sophisticated revenue analytics are giving revenue executives the power to “connect the dots” related to prospects’ buying intentions and behaviors. Equally important, these new revenue analytics tools also help marketers to report back to senior management in the fact-based language preferred by the C-suite. And that gives the marketing department even more influence and impact within the corporation.
The Promises and Pitfalls of Big Data
As with any rapidly emerging technology, big data poses both great promise as well as some pitfalls to companies looking to ride this new trend to better efficiency, increased results, and higher revenues. Since I have already extolled some of the strong benefits of big data, let me balance that with some notes of caution.
The fact is, big data can be a curse for corporations. Given the growing mountain of big data (especially unstructured data) that is being produced every day by social media, Google, mobile, and the entire digital information revolution, managing that data has become an historic challenge for businesses worldwide. According to the McKinsey Global Institute study, “There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data.”
I concur with McKinsey’s finding. The talent shortage is especially acute in the marketing department. The practice of marketing is now becoming more and more data-driven, but there are still not enough marketing executives who are truly experienced (or even comfortable) with making sense of the data, and actually putting it to work to drive revenue growth.
This is even true for Chief Marketing Officers. Many CMOs learned the marketing game when it still was more of a “right brain” management function instead of the data-intensive “left brain” process that it has become in recent years. Ad Age recently ran an article that provocatively stated: “When CMOs learn to love data, they’ll be VIPs in the C-Suite. And if they don’t, they’ll be relegated to overseeing promotions.” If that is not a shot across the bow of all budding marketing leaders, I don’t know what is.
Data Analytics Technology is a Tool, Not a Panacea
The other big data pitfall that looms large for sales and marketing teams is the frequently overly optimistic belief in the power of technology to instantly change everything for the better. I don’t need to tell you that technology – including data analytics tools – is not a panacea for business, or any type of organization. It just can’t make everything right.
Data analytics are indeed powerful tools that can help corporations to manage effectively the oceans of data that are now washing across the business world. But, to achieve the maximum benefits in terms of driving revenue growth and results, those tools must be used in conjunction with an overall Revenue Performance Management strategy and operational plan.
Just as too much data can be a bad thing, technology for the sake of technology can be a waste of money and effort. To be successful, implementing big data analytics technology must be implemented within a well thought out strategic framework, and including cross-departmental coordination and senior management buy-in.
Big data, effectively mined and managed by advanced data analytics tools, can be a huge competitive advantage for companies of all sizes and types. When those deep data insights are leveraged and managed as part of an integrated RPM program, then the true promise of big data can be realized.
So far, has big data turned out to be more of a blessing or a curse for your company, especially for your revenue related activities?