The Big-Data Gold Rush: Don’t Be a Forty-Niner Gold Seeker

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lior_abrahamIn this special guest feature, Lior Abraham of Interana uses the analogy that Big Data analytics is like the Gold Rush; everyone wants to find the big nugget, but sometimes it’s better to collect small flakes and compound them into a big gold bar. Lior Abraham is Co-Founder of Interana, a provider of  a self-service analytics solution for data discovery to help companies understand how customers behave and products are used. Lior built Facebook’s most popular internal tool for data analysis, SCUBA. He is striving to disrupt the universe in startlingly epic fashion and also studied at UC Berkeley.

Most companies today are sitting on piles of untapped data that bury many nuggets of insight, but they have no idea where to start digging. They spend hours trying to discover these nuggets using basic questions and experiments, when they should focus on how to incorporate data into their everyday lives.

Businesses want to be data driven, but today’s solutions require you to start with a defined question. That’s not always easy. Often you have to ask a series of questions before you hit on the questions you really want to ask. And if the system is really slow, you probably won’t reach many of the right questions or answers. Analytics solutions need to be based on normal human workflow and how people already explore and interact with data. Google searches are a great example. You don’t think about Google’s back-end, how it’s implemented, or why it’s so fast and easy. You just keep asking questions until you find your answer. If Google took ten minutes to find an answer, the way you asked Google questions would be fundamentally different. That’s a core problem with Big Data analytics today – people need to think deeply about what questions to ask against all odds of blindly getting them right.

As a result, most businesses opt out of trying to analyze their data  because it takes too long to get to an actionable answer. In many cases, companies need data specialists who run SQL queries, hive queries, and more. Data consumers must convey the precise questions they want to ask, and data scientists try to translate them into executable queries. The problem is not only chasing down that one answer; it’s having to keep on asking questions. Today this cycle takes a long time.

The promise of Big Data is that you’ll find one golden nugget of information that will transform your business. However, most companies ignore all the iterative discoveries they find along the way. By incorporating data into the daily workflow, many people throughout the company can use it to help produce better results. For example, product managers look at product usage data to discover which product features are used consistently and which are not. When promoting a product, marketing managers can use the same data to promote the product via marketing campaigns and evaluate marketing strategies.

When you compound all the tiny decisions people make on a daily basis, you see an outsized impact. Take marketers, for example. They may want to know how many leads they received in one day or how many of those leads converted into sales. They rarely know if there’s anything interesting in a massive raw data set until they’ve started looking at it. There can be so many different reasons that influence a lead to convert, but marketing managers typically do not know what questions to ask until they’ve gotten a few answers first. Being able to dive into raw data with an open mind and start exploring it leads to many new insights and to a deeper understanding of what it contains that was previously not possible.

Allowing people to easily explore data across different dimensions, facets, or even lenses is incredibly powerful. Interactive data analytics empowers employees to make actionable decisions that drive profitability on an ongoing basis. Big Data analytics is like the Gold Rush; everyone wants to find the big nugget, but just like those who collected small flakes and compounded them into a big gold bar, the companies that can compound data’s power by incorporating it into their workflows will ultimately be the real winners.


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