Mastering The Big Data Game

Written by Dharminder Biharie
Business Development, Xerox Netherlands
Big Data. Every time I hear this topic I wonder if the print or communications industry will adapt to its unlimited possibilities. Big Data is a business, and so far it seems as though only the gurus of the IT industry have adapted.
The reality of Big Data is that it is only being used by the big tech giants. This falls mostly into the realm of search engines, social media and e-commerce companies. They know how to tap into the power of Big Data.
To be clear, data is everywhere. Long ago it was found in those analogue Rolodex organizers. Today, it’s a central component to all high-end CRM/MIS systems.
Where do you begin?
Have you ever witnessed a meeting in a corporate or SMB environment where there was a flawless integration of IT, Marketing and Sales?
No? Neither have I.
It’s a myth that all these pieces are supposed to work together seamlessly. It’s complicated, difficult, and involved.
But you can make it work if you can get the right stakeholders interacting and discussing. There should be ownership, strategy and vision. Big Data is the goal, but it’s the people who help drive its action.
I can remember a meeting I was once involved in for a large publisher that included both sales and IT (I’m starting to get headaches just thinking about it…) The request was to filter the data out of an SAP system. Before we could launch the campaign, which was driven by XMPie, we needed the data. Our request was simple: we wanted the subscription list for each of the magazines.
7 painstaking months later and we finally managed to get our hands on the data.
There were many reasons for the delay, including the segregation of departments, silo thinking, and alpha-tech-monkey male behavior of the departments. In case you’re wondering, ‘alpha-tech-monkey behavior’ refers to the predominantly male-driven technology business where everyone has a patent on their own knowledge. Feeding knowledge and convincing them of new ways to think is practically impossible.
The importance of alignment and collaboration
If you want to start mining data, you need to work in partnership with the IT, Sales and Marketing departments. Unfortunately for many organizations, this is where problems first start to surface.
Sales has a different focus compared to marketing. Sales people live in the here and now. They always want to be informed when someone tries to communicate with their customers. Meanwhile, marketing views the world through rose-colored glasses and sees opportunities to target new audiences with new products. But hang on…sales is still talking about the old products. You don’t want to disrupt a sales cycle!
All the while, IT is having a headache trying to keep up with the mail and file servers, not to mention integrating to the cloud. And now they are being asked to extract data for a 1:1 communication campaign? Are you serious?! There’s no time for this!
Before deciding to get involved in these challenges, one word of advice: get a good night’s sleep the evening before getting started, as sleep will be hard to come by afterwards.
The current business landscape demands behavior that operates at fiber optic speeds. You need to help coordinate and integrate IT, Sales and Marketing. Mark my words, within two years the smart companies will be forming groups specifically focused on ISM (IT, Sales and Marketing), demanding that staff oversee activities in each of these areas.
What can you do as a company?
If you want to convince your customers and help get them involved in implementing Big Data, you need to play the role of a United Nations Blue Helmet peacekeeper. You will be responsible for managing three departments with their own agendas. Will this be challenging? Yes, undoubtedly.
Don’t be shocked if other players begin entering and mastering the Big Data game. Fortunately, there’s a lot to gain and the potential benefits will help offset any headaches from those ‘seamless’ meetings with Sales, Marketing and IT.

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