How to make data work for you

With UK economic forecasts looking like they may have been overly pessimistic, the savvy manager will be looking for ways to push their business ahead. Here James Petter explains why getting data-savvy will help them along the way...

by James Petter
Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012

In our knowledge economy, every business relies on information in, through and around it to make better decisions take the best opportunities as they arise.

Some businesses are already tackling the challenge of squeezing usefulness out of the data they have. Co-operative Insurance is experimenting with what’s called ‘big data analytics’ – rapid, real-time analysis of data from a lot of different sources – to deliver better insurance deals to safer drivers. GPS trackers let Co-op know if individuals are driving too fast or braking too abruptly and therefore what risk they represent. Premiums can then be adjusted accordingly and better drivers rewarded with discounts.

The financial services sector has long understood the value of business information and has been an early adopter of big data technology to cut back on fraud, a problem which last year cost the UK economy £38.4 billion, according to the annual report by the National Fraud Authority. By analysing and comparing every transaction made against every other transaction in a bank’s data set, fraudulent patterns can be identified and dodgy transactions halted.

For everyday businesses, the sheer volume of data in social media can provide a free market research platform for new product development. O’Reilly Media, publishers of a technical and business manuals, uses big data to assess topics under discussion and inform the next products O’Reilly commissions and publishes.

The volume, variety and speed with which data is being produced today represent a real challenge for businesses. Traditional business intelligence tools cannot deliver real-time insight, or make trend-based predictions. In addition, the vast majority of people are yet to understand what ‘big data analytics’ is or what it can do. There’s a growing imperative for CEOs to acquire an understanding of the technology and how it might inform a new mindset for their business.

This data-driven mindset involves some technical skills, some analytical skills and plenty of imagination. Consider what would happen if you could better shift the product you stock, the services you sell, the markets you go to for growth, just by having a better understanding of the data generated by your firm? Today’s management teams need to understand the potential value of a data-driven mindset and add that capability to their arsenal. Learning to ask the right questions as well as recruiting the right expertise will be key in using data to unlock a new wave of growth for UK businesses – something we desperately need.

James Petter is vice president and managing director of EMC UK&I

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.

Andrew Strauss: Leadership lessons from an international cricket captain

"It's more important to make the decision right than make the right decision."