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Using data to transform your business



It’s amazing how much data we are creating all over the world from our smartphones, tablets, personal computers, and business computers.
It is estimated that each minute we are generating data that is equivalent to all the data that was collected since the creation of the world up to 2000.
That’s a lot of data. All this data, which is now being referred to as “big data”, is being created from organisations in the form of transactions and chats from social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube. You name it.

The variety of this data, the volume and the speed at which this data is being created is phenomenal. It’s just mind boggling how much data is available. All our lives are in this data stored somewhere in a number of computers.
What can we really do with such an amount of data? That’s the question everyone privy to this new concept is asking. Every organisation that wants to be above the competition should be thinking on how to leverage from this data.
Every enterprise should fully appreciate and understand what is big data – what it is to them, what it does for them, what it means to them and especially the potential it has in unlocking a myriad of marketing opportunities.

There are a lot of opportunities waiting to be tapped from big data. There are a lot of insights one can gather from the data about your customers. One can use the insights gathered at each step along the way to start improving customer engagement strategies.
Big data is a popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data both structured and unstructured. Big data may be as important to business and society as the internet has become. Data can be categorised into two categories namely structured and semi-structured data.

Semi-structured data comes in all different formats like video, audio, pictures and is not organized or easily interpreted by traditional databases or data models. Typically, this data cannot be stored in a structured, relational database.
It includes both semi-structured and unstructured data sources like emails, social data, videos, audio files, photos, GPS, satellite images, sensor data, web log data, mobile data, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and PDF docs.

Structured data refers to a variety of data which is in a certain format.
This is mainly transactional data that gets stored in a relational database. Sources of such data include: Enterprise Resource Planning systems, Customer Relationship Management systems, financial data, Point Of Sale data and e-commerce. Data in databases, excel spreadsheets or transactional information is all structured.
Business leaders should quickly come to terms on how they can utilise big data for the benefit of their organisations. Big data is so voluminous to analyse so one needs very good analytical tools to derive benefits like good decision making, greater operational efficiencies, cost reductions and reduced risk.

Analysis of big data provides a deeper level of insight into what customers are thinking, how they behave and how the business operates. Big data helps in improving customer intelligence.
The potential payoffs are improving customer retention, selling individual custom­ers more relevant products, and producing items with higher quality.
With proper use, big data can really improve the bottom line to make an impact on overall profitability.
Big data can help to improve operational efficiencies. For instance, commercial aircraft are fitted with sensors that generate 20 terabytes of data an hour which is sent to manufacturers like Boeing and Rolls Royce.

Some vehicles or trucks are reporting back data collected from onboard sensors to dealer service systems.
All this data goes back to manufacturers who monitor the performance of these engines and can determine when the engine needs service. This improves on operational efficiencies.
Any problems are quickly identified and resolved online in some cases. Sometimes, analysis of incoming data can be used to alert the supply chain to ensure that the needed parts or spares arrive at the right place at the right time. Insurance companies, which have long been data driven, will benefit significantly from the introduction of big data.
Companies that effectively create and implement big data strategies stand to gain a competitive advantage.

Obviously, to extract value from large volumes of data, like any capability, requires investments in technologies, processes and governance.
Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Company said: “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
We need to convert the big data into something that gives our organisations competitive advantage.

l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.
He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans, tender documents and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts:, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062 .

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