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Gold Miners in Business

The summer of 2012, at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Centre in Queens, NY, the stage was set for the best-of-the-best in the tennis world to serve, lob, love, volley, slam and ace their way to the top of the American charts. The sporting event had close to a million visitors and had many more millions tuned in through plasma and LCD screens from nooks and corners of the world. The big blue, technology and consulting company (IBM) saw opportunity – opportunity to make a big impact with big data – an opportunity to flaunt the company’s analytics prowess to millions. A big chance to interpret big data for a big audience – big idea indeed!

They created an interactive touch wall (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYBWrF9msZQ) and an iPad app that provided tennis fans interesting insights based on both, historical data and live match updates. The wall, aptly called the game changer wall, provided among many other interesting snippets, three key insights before every match – three things each player needed to do well in order to clinch that match. The wall and the app were a phenomenal hit with Tennis fans and that’s a given. But the real hit or target for this creative data visualization was in fact C-suite executives in the corporate world. IBM’s motive behind the wall and the app was to demonstrate to decision makers of the corporate world how big data can be used to present meaningful insights in an engaging, visual and useful way. And like the proverbial, cherry on top of the cake, the company cleverly linked the game-changer wall to social media buzz, tweets and updates – it tracked, linked and ranked the Grand Slam masters’ traction in the social media world alongside their performance in the tennis court! That was a clincher J

Another visible example of big data handling was the way Obama’s campaign team used big data to rally individual voters.

If these two examples aren’t worthy enough, you can zoom in to your own office….don’t you see the desks of senior executives piled with reports, generated internally and received from external sources? In addition to this pile are the digital counterparts that are delivered diligently daily on email (that you won’t see). Between cups of caffeine, ticking off daily to dos, meeting project deadlines and keeping clients happy, how many hours or minutes are left to parse the daily data dump, draw insights and apply them well to business?

That’s where the Data Analyst comes in – a person who can offer useful business insights in a context – a person who can interpret data, connect the little data dots and provide a basis for making decisions. Data is mostly available from all digital platforms that the businesses use to engage customers and other stakeholders. Big data basically refers to data that is voluminous, varied and comes at a certain speed from different directions. Given that customers, consumers, corporates, NGOs, journalists, opinion leaders and the likes are accessing these digital platforms everyday and leaving their digital footprint, traces, vital clues, is it not logical to invest time and efforts here?

The data analyst or
data scientist or
number cruncher or
data visionary

whatever you call them, are here to stay and grow big. In fact it’s been dubbed the sexiest job title of the 21st century. I call it digital gold mining because every insight obtained by delving into voluminous data is as valuable as gold itself! Besides, insights are so rare. One has to work hard to see patterns and connect little dots- This I can say from the few data analyst projects I have handled.

The Clairvoyants, Soothsayers and Fortunetellers of the business world emphasized the importance of data analytics in every trend report they dished out at the start of 2013. This is further confirmed by the rise in the new breed of C suite executive called the Chief Digital Officer (CDO)- those who will realize business goals in the digital space (digital space means digital technologies like mobile computing, consumer devices, social media and many many more we don’t know today but might spring upon us tomorrow).

A successful CDO always needs an astute data analyst. Whatever number of super algorithms and mining logics you deploy at a software level, there is absolutely no denying the importance of human judgment in handling data, big and small.

Every business competing in the every increasing competitive digital space would require a very astute gold miner.

Have you got yours yet?

uma@umamuthuraaman.com