Data exhaust. Cyber shadow. Digital footprint. Turns out our passionate embrace of all these interconnected digital devices is leaving a kind of transactional trail that, in the aggregate, has come to be known as Big Data. We are creating enormous quantities of the stuff, and modern organizations are increasingly eager to poke around in it.
Consider, for example, Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s claim that every two days we modern humans create as much information as did all our ancestors combined; or that every day Facebook processes more than 500 terabytes of data; or that Google processes more than 2 million search queries a minute. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Perhaps even more important, we’re just getting started. Cisco Systems, the company that produces much of the plumbing through which these great rivers of data flow, predicts 8 zetabytes of data production per year by 2015 (the informational equivalent of 2 trillion DVDs).
At the same time impressive new gains are being made in technology that ensure the data growth won’t slow anytime soon. Once again we could pick from a mind-boggling litany of popular evidence, but one of our favorites is this recent gem: Harvard scientists are mastering the art of data storage using molecular DNA that, when completed, will allow the contents of the entire Internet to be stored on a device no bigger than a human thumb.
All of which is to say that all of Big Data’s tools of production, storage, and dissemination aren’t going to be a problem. But for many organizations, making sense of all that data is.
The Age of Consumerized Businesses
The key to truly understanding what is going on, says Google’s Schmidt, “is user-generated content.” Why is it important? Because not only are individuals responsible for the creation of much of this data, but their role at the center of that equation marks a profound transformation in the way organizations and their markets interact.
Like a kind of globe-rattling polar reversal, organizations that once charted their own course of operations must today re-augur their corporate compasses to meet the individual needs of their increasingly outspoken, interconnected, demanding constituencies (e.g., prospects, customers, partners, and so on).
These shifts mean corporate marketing is undergoing a sea change in the way it operates, and data is the key to that process. Marketers are doing that by capturing, filtering, comparing, analyzing, testing (maybe even a little shaking and stirring), and otherwise trying to generate actionable business intelligence from all that user-generated data.”
The Marketing Challenge
Understandably, CMOs and other marketing executives are more than a little flustered by the volume of all that data, the speed at which it is being produced, and the increasingly disparate array of gadgets and channels through which it is being created, shared, and acted upon.
Indeed, a variety of polls and surveys indicate 70% or more of CMOs “feel ill-equipped to deal with the data coming at them from all directions.” Yet despite their reservations, marketing executives find themselves walking point for organizations on the data front.
“Marketing is now the central engine of growth for many companies,” says Laura McLellan, vice president of research at Gartner, in a webinar. Her company predicts that by 2017 CMOs will enjoy larger operating budgets than CIOs, in large part because they will be the overseers of Big Data analytics programs intended as the eyes and ears of the organization.
That growth is why the ability to not only gather data but rapidly interpret it, correlate it, and use it will become immensely valuable in the coming years. A growing number of companies recognize this truth but are stymied at how best to make it happen. After all, simply pointing at a mountain and tasking someone with locating and extracting the gold isn’t likely to generate results.
What is your organization doing to respond to this business problem? How have you “consumerized” data—or what challenges have you run into as you try to derive value from it? Let’s chat in the comments.
This article is a companion piece to the Marketing Profs white paper, “Big Data-Fueled Marketing Intelligence: Six Ingredients to Smarter Marketing.” Read it now in our Learn Center.