Communicating the Value of Your Data to Your Boss

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The promise of big data analytics to turn massive volumes of data into insights that lead to real business advantage is real. And more and more business execs are signing off on big data adoption for their organizations. However, such undertakings are often not as straightforward as they seem. And at some point business leaders may grow anxious to see hard evidence that their big data investment is paying off.

As an IT leader you are well acquainted with both the big data challenge and opportunity for increased ROI that your big data initiative holds. However, those to whom you report may have difficulty understanding the business value that the data actually holds.

If you’re having trouble proving that your big data project is producing positive business outcomes, here are some strategies to help you more effectively communicate the value of your data to the CEO and CFO.

Start With Clearly Defined Business Goals and Metrics

The Olympics in Rio teach a powerful business analytics lesson. All competitors had clearly defined goals going into the games. And the metrics by which success or failure would be determined—particularly in the timed events in the swimming pool and on the track—could be relied upon to provide accurate results right down to the 100ths of a second.

Before starting a big data project, business goals must be clearly defined. Only then can the business problem that needs to be solved through analytics be fully identified, along with the metrics that can best measure success and increased ROI. Big data projects that measure ROI before data driven decisions are made and changes implemented, and then measure ROI after those changes have been implemented for a determined length of time are ideal for communicating real data value to business leaders.

Start Small and Go Slow

A big mistake many IT departments make with respect to big data adoption is starting with an overly ambitious project that encompasses every department in the enterprise. Even if this approach were to succeed, it would be very difficult to show it, as measuring ROI across the entire company can be difficult at best. A better approach is to start small and focus on analyzing data from a single department or area within the company. Taking this approach allows you to work out the bugs as you go, making it easier to identify actionable business insights that can lead to an increase in ROI that will be much easier to measure and prove.

Set Realistic Expectations

With all of the hype that still surrounds the term “Big Data” there is a tendency for upper level management to have unrealistic expectations with respect to how large and how fast the revenue gains of the big data initiative that they have signed off on will be. As an IT exec, you need to manage expectations making sure that business leaders understand that the bottom-line business benefits produced by a big data initiative are more likely to be incremental than exponential, especially during early adoption.

This isn’t to say the benefits of your big data project won’t be valuable. As a recent Forbes article points out, in research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 60 percent of professionals surveyed said that big data analysis is generating revenue within their organizations, and 83 percent report that data analysis is making existing services and products more profitable.

Those are impressive numbers. However, Forbes’ own research indicates that the big data gains in revenue for most companies were reported as incremental. In fact, only 27 percent of companies said that revenues from big data analytics had grown by more than 3 percent. And these numbers make a strong case for managing expectations.

The promise of big data to deliver on increasing ROI is real. And with the rise of cloud-based Big Data-as-a-Service (BDaaS) vendors and other powerful analytics tools, the costs of big data adoption for organizations will drop as revenue gains rise more dramatically. But until your data’s business value becomes more readily apparent to execs not in the IT department, the above strategies for helping you to clearly communicate the real value that is being derived from your big data initiative will serve you well.

Linda_GimmesonContributed by: Linda Gimmeson, a tech writer with a focus in big data, machine learning, & IoT. Linda discusses big data, emerging technologies, and how companies can get real value out of their data.


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