Big Data: Do You Have a Plan?

Google, Amazon and Netflix: all successful companies with a seemingly infallible ability to choose the right product to develop, at the right time and for the right crowd. How do they manage to stay ahead of the market, to set the trends and give the crowds what they want before they want it?

The answer is big data. And there’s no need to miss out on all the benefits to be reaped. You don’t have to be a massive tech corporation to leverage it.

Decision-making backed by massive data fortifies a company’s ability to design features and improve their processes. The more you know, the further you can go. Harness big data and your decisions will thank you. And so will your profits.

Big data and decisions made

But where to start? At IESE, alongside our colleague and expert in big data Prof. Russell Walker of Northwestern University, we are working to develop the answers to enable more firms to harness the benefits of big data.

1. Know where you’re going. Big data is…big

That’s why, before trying to make sense of it, the first step is nailing down the questions you want to answer. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go. Management, (that´s you, reader) needs to know where the company is going. Ask yourself:

  • How will we use the data?
  • What questions are we trying to answer?
  • What data do we need in order to answer these questions adequately?
  • And once you´ve performed the analysis, what will the company use it for?

If you want to leverage big data in your decision-making, know which decisions need to be taken.

2. Get what you need

Big data is also unwieldy. If you don’t identify the resources you need to use it how you want, you could end up lost in an ocean of information impossible to process and decisions that are ill-informed. There are simply resources you’ve got to have. So don’t try to cut corners. Learn what hardware, software and personnel you need to support your company’s big data endeavor and the fruit from the decisions made thereafter will make it worthwhile.

3. Stay on your toes.

A well-known fast-food chain has begun monitoring the number of people that are waiting for service and adjusting its screens to accordingly advertise products that are quick to cook and serve at rush hour. This constant reflection, evaluation and follow-through with decision-making is essential. Big data is constantly changing and you need to change with it. Once you know what you want to achieve and have implemented the steps to leverage the data, don’t stop there. It´s a continual process that demands maintenance and creativity.

As Russell has said: “For all firms, leveraging big data and analytics is about understanding their customer and operations in detail”.


*Want to know more about monetizing big data? Join us for a focused program with Russell Walker.

About Inés Alegre

Prof. Inés Alegre holds a Ph.D. in Management from IESE Business School and a master's degree in Industrial Engineering from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC).

About Miguel A. Ariño

Miguel A. Ariño is professor in the Department of Managerial Decision Sciences. He has published articles in both academic and mainstream magazines. He is the author of the book "Toma de Decisiones y Gobierno de Organizaciones" (Ed. Deusto, 2005) and co-author, together with Pablo Maella, of the book "Iceberg a la Vista. Principios para tomar decisiones sin hundirse" (Empresa Activa, 2010). He is also the author of the blog Toma de decisiones (in Spanish).

About Miguel A. Canela

Miguel Angel Canela teaches mathematics and statistics on IESE's Ph.D. Program at IESE. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Universitat de Barcelona and has been a professor in the Faculty of Mathematics of this university for the last thirty years, as well as a senior consultant and director of the Master in Quality Management at the Institut Català de Tecnologia.

6 thoughts on “Big Data: Do You Have a Plan?

  1. Big data is also unwieldy. If you don’t identify the resources you need to use it how you want, you could end up lost in an ocean of information impossible to process and decisions that are ill-informed.

  2. great article…I agree data is going to play a big role in future and will help business take right decisions based on data. Check the technological advances in radar detector

  3. When do you have a Big Data Problem?

    When you have too many bytes (Volume)
    When you get the data at too high rate (Velocity)
    When your data comes from too many sources (Variety)

    This is according to what I understood from Alex Pentland.

  4. I’m a big fan of analytics and process automation. I think that analytics + competent management is equal to success

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