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Treasure trove: Big data plays crucial role in modern business strategy

Individually, the data points may seem random, but with the right tools the millions of data points may tell a story, or predict a trend that few research methodologies are able to discern

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 9:42am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 9:42am

Firms are inundated by data every day, from product sales to clicks on websites and the number of people entering a shop. Individually, the data points may seem random,  but, with the right tools, the millions of data points may tell a story, or predict a trend that few research methodologies are able to discern.

Companies now realise they have a treasure trove of valuable insights and information about  customers at their fingertips. Many are investing in big data, recognising that it is a critical part of their corporate strategy.

Research firm Forrester estimates big data industry will grow 12.8 per cent a year over the next five years. Almost 40 per cent of firms are implementing and expanding big-data technology adoption, the firm found in a survey last year. Another 30 per cent of respondents said they planned to adopt big data in the next 12 months.

The uses of big data stretch across industries, from e-commerce to health care and gaming and  from the private to public sectors.

Governments, the biggest collector of personal data, are using data to improve tax collections, fine-tune policy and fix faulty train lines.

The Australian government uses big data on welfare services, customising policies for individual circumstances, saving more than A$314 million (HK$ 1.83 billion) from 2013 to 2015.

Singapore is also an avid user of big data, which helps it solve everything from traffic to social policies. Last year, when one of its rail lines was hit by a spate of mysterious disruptions, it was a crack team of government data scientists, not the rail operator, who solved the case.

Simply put, big data delivers, Accenture Analytics says.

In a survey last year, 92 per cent of users, who had embarked on big data projects, were satisfied with the business outcome. Ninety-four per cent of respondents felt their big data implementation met their needs.

“Executives report big data delivering business outcomes for a wide spectrum of strategic corporate goals - from new revenue generation and new market development to enhancing the customer experience and improving enterprise-wide performance.” Accenture says. “Those standing on the sidelines may be left behind.”

The proliferation of big data means that it no longer belongs exclusively to big companies. Small firms are also able to use it to advance their goals, says Ma Dan, associate professor of information systems and management at Singapore Management University .

He cites the emergence of affordable cloud-based data services, which make it practical to store huge amounts of data, and the growth of data analytics companies as key factors for rising accessibility.

“There is a market for it, with many big data analytic firms operating,” he says. “So corporations without strong data analysis techniques can also enjoy the benefit of data analytics. It is not necessary to have an internal data analysis team.”