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Over the last several months, I’ve been sharing some of the insights I gleaned while conducting a report  on the promise of big data, along with examples of companies that are transforming their operations and gaining advantage by leveraging it.

First, let’s be clear: data drives businesses in different ways. There is no magic bullet or single, right approach for managing it – or harnessing its power. But there are some key strategies that can be employed to deliver results. In my next few posts, I’ll outline a few that I found in my research:

First:  Have a vision – a non-debatable business goal – around which all can rally

The move to data-driven business is a journey, and every journey needs a goal everyone can rally round – and aim for. Having one gives you a reason to take that first step together – and press on over the inevitable bumps in the road. It answers the question, “Why even start?”  Down the road, it answers, “Why press on?”

COSCO sought cost savings, improved  customer service, and reduced carbon footprint. Mount Sinai Hospital sought to create the effect of adding 100 new beds – without actually adding even one.

Those are non-debatable goals, simple in the extreme. Everyone can rally round them.

Whether you are committed to producing highest-quality products, or competitive products at the lowest possible cost, or highest levels of service or customer experience, doing business the data-driven way can help get you there.

A vision leads the way.

Second: Create a plan that is right-sized for action and gets value in the hands of users fast. 

You can’t do everything at once. With huge volumes of data potentially available, right-sizing your best next move is especially important.

Mark Nix at gocloudlogistics organized a social platform around particular shipments. EMI connected a small handful of top customers to find and tune the next hit.

Thomas Olavson, director of operations decision support at Google, told a workshop that getting the problem shaped and sized right has some artistry to it.  “It’s using intuition.” he said. “Using what you hear from people, using rough cut analysis to try to narrow down the scope.”

Above all, focus on the business problem you are trying to solve.

“Prove then build,” David Boyle at EMI said. But don’t delay. “The quick and dirty model that you knock off is infinitely better than having no model at all.”

About the author
Zachary Tumin
Zachary Tumin
Special Assistant to the Director and Faculty Chair, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

Zach manages the Belfer Center’s project in Information and Communications Technology and directs the Harvard component of a joint Harvard-MIT initiative in cyber security. Zach’s research focuses on the strategic management of collabo... Read More >>>

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