Usually big trends in business follow on the footsteps of new research or data staking the claim of transformational ROI. Whether it’s a system (HRM, CRM, ERP/M), a process (six sigma) or a style (management rotations, profit sharing) just about all of these major business trends came about after extensive trial and error, piloting, testing, and researching. We live in a fundamentally changed world if you didn’t notice.
Everything that is now “social” went just about backwards – all of a sudden “social” was producing disruptive amounts of data that cut across organizational units and so a new business trend emerged… big data.
As we’re just beginning to see the way big data plays out across different functions and industries, it got its start in some way as a way to find ROI for everything “social”. In fact, as Dion Hinchcliffe pointed out last month, just about everyone is trying to buy their way into “social” (but more on that another time). Whether it’s because staff expect it (they use it in their personal lives) or it’s how their customers are spending their time (mobile, social, both), for- and not-for profit organizations have dramatically amped up their digital analytics teams to make the most of the change.
But there’s a bigger question that comes first: is Big Data for you?
For the last 9 months, “big data” has been hotter than a new Thomas Keller joint in Manhattan. Everyone’s looking to get a reservation, scrapping other plans, ditching budgets, and looking to get in without really knowing what they’ll get out. Early reviews from the pro critics are good, but the “public” vote is still out. A bit too “experimental” and not enough lovin’.
Sound familiar? If your org has yet to really dig into the “big data” phenomenon it’s likely because a) you don’t think it applies to you (it does), or b) you already have “analytics” shops set up in your business units and don’t have time to add something new to your fiscal plans (or budgets). Then there’s also the c) option – you’re small, like data, but don’t have the “capacity” for it.
I’ll tell you a secret – I was a history major who thought my chosen path had as little to do with data as Jackson Pollock’s masterpieces did (although I do see some nice parabolas). As I changed directions my senior year and joined a group of incredible and passionate people to “teach for america” there was data everywhere. It wasn’t what I expected – little did I know I was walking into one of the most data-driven organizations I’ve ever heard of or worked with.
In recent months, we’ve seen a growth of protests against and arguments for the rise of value-added test data. The big question? How is value-added data (and the need to get it) leading us in the wrong direction or making us better educators? The basic theory goes something like this: value-added data can be good, but only at the macro level over longer periods of time. Just about everyone actually agrees on this point, but that yearly test data seems too good to give up and drives hard battle lines.
So what was different 10-15 years ago when standardized tests were used as the macro indicators that they are?