Data is big. In fact, it’s massive. It’s forecast to be worth over £322n to the UK by 2020, and it’s quickly becoming our most valuable asset.

Having huge volumes of data may no longer be a rarity. But as companies realise the true worth of data, what’s often still missing is understanding. It’s this understanding – not data – that has the ability to give us the confidence to make better decisions.

As the volume, velocity, variety and even veracity of data continues to increase, understanding your data is more important than ever before. And it’s perhaps this recognition that has helped big data move beyond ‘hype’ and into practice.

Going beyond the 85%

Every organisation has access to a plethora of data sources. 85% of the time what’s harnessed for analysis is internal, structured data – spreadsheets, CSV files, databases and XML files. Then there’s the external data (easily attainable or open data sets that can be simple to analyse). Or even the unstructured data owned by the organisation (emails, surveys, and phone calls) that is occasionally brought to the fore too. All vast quantities of data… but big data?

Beyond the 85% - promise of big data

Big data is often harder to harness – unstructured, external data. But once collected, processed, queried and analysed, it can be combined with more traditional sources to eke out new insights and leverage business advantage. Where to start, though?

Think big. But start small

Focus is often key to the success of any data project. Without it, what’s the point? So, what’s the aim of the project? What do you hope to get from it?

Once the focus has been established, the starting point for most big data projects is combining the data sources already being collected with new types of data previously unavailable or unusable. This allows patterns to be spotted, to highlight problems, uncover opportunities and predict what’s about to happen next.

focus - the promise of big data

This obviously has a massive commercial implication, but data also goes beyond balancing financial figures and driving the bottom-line. It has a direct impact on our everyday lives.

An HR solution we created for one of the UK’s largest companies brings together HR information with data from Finance, Surveys and other third party systems to spot previously unseen trends.

A more human insight

This gave the company the ability to analyse how the makeup and skill level of their 75,000 employees works to drive financial performance. It means that the business can now predict everything from the staff that may leave in the next 12 months, to why they’re leaving, and the HR Factors that will be most likely to affect the business in the future.

More importantly, though, by having a holistic view of the workforce, a more human insight can be garnered.

Which teams are being over worked? Are their tasks diverse enough? Is team moral low? And how can it be improved? By bringing multiple sources of data together for analysis, rising stars can be spotted, problems can be solved and a better working environment can be created.

People analytics - the promise of big data

By analysing the drivers of attrition, for example, the insights discovered can be used to improve the work-life balance across the company. Maybe it’s the impact of extensive traveling and being away from home that’s leading to an uneven work-life balance? Data on nights away or on fuel expenses could be added to the attrition analysis, for a deeper insight.

Across organisations, data can be harnessed to answer important gender or ethnic questions. By looking at the gender mix across different salary bands and combining it with other data – say age or absenteeism – firms can discover how different parts of their organisation is represented.

Through data, analytics and interactive reporting, the business can now see how HR changes will impact its performance, as well as the happiness of its people.

Delivering the promise of Big Data

While people are the most important asset at any business, every company must also ensure the books balance, the pipeline is full, and that promises are delivered.

With recent legislation introduced to compensate for delayed or cancelled flights, one UK airline wanted to address challenges around punctuality and reliability, which could not only impact customer service but now also lead to significant financial risk.

Barrachd was brought in to improve the analysis of key information. We consolidated data from three core systems – flight scheduling, finance and operations & maintenance – to create a fast and accurate way to calculate and analyse the potential cost of delays by the various cause, route and aircraft.

More so, the airline now has the ability to react in ‘real-time’ to avoid delays accumulating. If a flight’s delayed in the morning, action can be taken to avoid delays stacking up.

Creating better places

It’s not just businesses that are benefitting from the big data revolution. Cities – and their people – are also drawing on data to improve their services and create better places.

Creating better places - focusing on opportunity of big data

Creating a safer, cleaner, better city is the aim of one large Community Safety organisation. It tackles a wide range of crime prevention, antisocial behaviour and community safety issues, working in partnership with the police, City Council, Fire and Rescue Service and the local NHS, to ensure a co-ordinated approach to its deployment.

The organisation consists of a number of individual services, each collecting and managing information in different ways. This meant challenges for reporting on, delivering and planning services. Which isn’t good when it’s the safety and wellbeing of a city that’s at stake.

By harnessing diverse sets of data, we provided both management and operational staff with a holistic view of the relevant service, while ensuring the right person has the right information at the right time.

In creating a unified data model, we’re helping the organisation make better decisions to deploy resources more efficiently, massively improving operational effectiveness – and making the city a safer, better place to live!

While there is no such thing as a crystal ball, there’s always plenty of information available. By bringing that information together we can drive discovery and understanding. This will help us predict the future consequences of our actions. To become more agile, more personal and more responsible.

Before companies starts to deliver on the promise of big data, they need to ensure that they are making optimal use of the information that’s more easily accessible. Data might be big, but it’s what you do with it that counts.

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Posted in analytics, Big data On August 23, 2017 By