Big Data – It’s About Impact, Not Insights.

Dan Grady's picture
 By | January 23, 2015
in Advanced Analytics, Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, data management, data visualization
January 23, 2015

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I attend a number of Data and Analytics industry events throughout the year.  Of all of the presentations I sat through in 2014, two stand out.  One was by Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane at the Disney Analytics Conference, the other was by Ken Rudin, the Director of Analytics for Facebook at a TDWI Big Data Analytics Conference.

Billy Beane’s approach to analytics has been well documented in the book and film Money Ball. Ken Rudin’s approach hasn’t had nearly as much fanfare, but the core concept is probably more applicable to most of our own “Big Data” projects.

To paraphrase, his main idea was that “the focus of Big Data projects should be IMPACT, not INSIGHTS”.  Impact, not Insights – it makes so much sense! That mantra alone would have been enough of a takeaway for me, but he went on to define what Impact means to his organization. It comes down to three things:

  1. Move a metric
  2. Change a product
  3. Change a behavior or a process


Ask yourself, how many of the data-driven projects that you are currently working will result in one of those three outcomes?  So much of the industry buzz around Big Data is focused on analysts who are capturing large volumes of disparate data, visualizing that data in data discovery tools, and uncovering new Insights.  But then what?  Does just visualizing the data and finding outliers accomplish one of the three things above? 

Big Data projects that are focused just on insights are like reading all the information about the trendy new diet and then continuing to eat what you have been or signing up for the gym and never going (a tradition that I like to uphold every New Year).  In order to have an Impact you have to act on the insights. 

In the data-driven world, one of the ways to accomplish Impact is to operationalize the insights by embedding them in business applications or processes.

But where to start?  If you’ve read any of my other blogs you know I like to break things down into simple terms I can understand.  When it comes to creating operational applications or “InfoApps” there is framework I like to use – the 3 A’s of Analytical Applications (how’s that for alliteration).

  • Analysis – What insight can we provide that would make a difference?  More importantly how can you apply this analysis in a recurring fashion?
  • Audience - Who would benefit from this analysis? The answer to this question could be a human being or a process within the organization.
  • Access - What is the optimal way to provide the target audience access to this analysis? Is it part of an enterprise portal or maybe via a mobile device?

If you can answer those 3 questions you have the foundation for creating Impact.

The concept of creating data driven operational applications that have Impact is something Information Builders customers have been doing for years.  You can read about some of these stories here.

Throughout the year I’ll be blogging about different “Big Data” use cases that create Impact, not just Insights.  Unlike my diet and exercise routine for 2015, this is something I think I’ll be able to stick to.

For more information on how you can make an impact in the enterprise, read this white paper.