Big Data : why you’ll love to hate it


love-hateLike it or not, big data will become more and more important for businesses. There’s still a lot of work to be done to help them understand its potential – even if nearly nobody actually gets it since technology improves faster than our ability to imagine new use cases – and explain employees and managers it’s not about drowning them into more data but, on the contrary, giving them less but more relevant indicators relying on more data.

That said and despite if its potential, big data is not going to make everybody happy and behind the craze for novelty, many will grind their teeth. Here’s why.

Big Data : a matter of culture of management

• Because it forces people to face their responsibilities

Who does not dream of measuring the impact of his decision in real time ? To get out the mist of the soft sides of a decision that causes beneficial but not measurable effects ? Not everyone.

• Because it’s (again) a matter of culture

When the right people are given the right information to make decision, that more people can be empowered to make decisions where the problem happens, it leads to a management weakness. It’s pointless without a real will to delegate decision making and let employees handle exceptions instead of following rigid processes that never fit any situation. Most of all for customer relationship. Keep on relying on intuition, on HiPPO (Highest Paid Person Opinion) rather than on data, delegating or not, are not a matter of technology.

• Because it’s about trust

Because Big Data gives no answer but information allowing to find the answer. What big data does not do is interpretation, which still belongs to people. It takes trust in people’s ability to carry out interpretation. Having the right skills and experience is not enough when trust has escaped from the workplace.

• Because it’s a matter of ethics and soon a matter of liability

No business can exist without data ethics. Towards employees, customers, stakeholders and tomorrow towards law. Not sure marketing, HR and legal will agree what to do and not to do at the first attempt.

• Because correlating is not explaining

Big Data tells that one thing leads to another but will never tell why. That’s the difference between correlation and causality. Skeptics and ultra rationals won’t always buy it.

Copernican revolution and the end of sacred cows

• Because it requires us to trash our old models

The one after the other, generations of employees and managers have learned the same models and methods at school, all based on a single principe : foresee the future by looking at the past, using established models. Now the future is predicted through emergent and adhoc models in real time. One of the cornerstones of marketing and management is collapsing. Copernic and Gallilee experienced similar situations in the past.

• Because it will question the value of information

Data have no value by themselves (and even a negative one if we consider acquisition and storage costs). Data acquire value by when they become information and are used to make a decision. This will have two consequences. The first is to question some existing systems that collect anything they can without delivering anything usable and drown users with flows of useless numbers. The second will be the need to use data, what takes us to the cultural and management issues. No use no value.