Ayanda Dlamini. Image supplied.
Using big data effectively does not include “sifting through” historical data, but rather focusing on the present, according to Ayanda Dlamini, business development manager of LGR Telecommunications.
“Amid the daunting volumes of digitised data now in existence around the world, it is easy for companies to go off-track in their attempts to harness big data,” said Dlamini.
“We see many misconceptions arising about the meaning of the term big data, and the approaches that should be taken to derive business value from it.”
Aside from the large amounts of historical data within enterprise databases, Dlamini said big data also includes new data, which emerges “every second” and originates from multiple external sources.
These include mobile, email and social media and these three sources are where businesses should be looking for strategic insights.
According to Dlamini, using business intelligence (BI) tools to analyse historical data in order to make decisions to take the business forward often leads to inaccurate conclusion. He said data with valuable information lies within the “real world” outside of the business.
“Big data management is about managing the growing volumes, variety, velocity and complexity of global data to determine what customers are saying now, how market sentiments are changing, and how the business should react,” said Dlamini.
“Trends are key to understanding customer behaviour… effective use of big data depends on finding the now in structured and unstructured data.”
Tracking and processing “the now” in big data, it is important for businesses to integrate social media into their BI because social media enables businesses to stay in touch with what customers are saying about both the business in question and its competitors.
Social media also enables the business to consider external factors, which may impact market behavior.
“With advanced big data tools incorporated into their BI systems, they are able to identify changes in the market in near real time, and change their strategy accordingly,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini added: “With vast numbers of customers accessing social media via their smart mobile devices, we are able to increase our understanding beyond their social networks and sentiments to include geographic data too.”
In terms of implementing big data and to use it effectively, Dlamini said it is not necessary for businesses to embark on extensive and costly restructures of their BI systems and data warehouses because it is advisable to start off small by integrating social media application programming interfaces (APIs) into their BI in order to gain immediate insights.
He added that analysing social media data does not necessarily mean a business has to evaluate all the data, but “tap into” what is relevant and what needs attention.
“This may be as simple as how many people have liked your page, blogged about you or tweeted about your product. Determine what component of this unstructured dataset is relevant to your business requires careful strategic planning, however,” said Dlamini.