Thornton May: The path to big data mastery

The think-tankers on the Executive Leadership Council at AIIM systematically use a four-box matrix to reduce uncertainty, allocate investments and calibrate new product/service initiatives. This simple tool -- with "important and difficult" in the upper right and "unimportant and easy" in the lower left -- produces surprisingly powerful insights.

During year-end discussions with 40 executives in 20 vertical markets, I discovered that they all now place big data in that upper-right quadrant. Similarly, readers of Booz & Co.'s Strategy+Business blog designated big data the 2013 Strategy of the Year, and the co-directors of Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, in a masterful white paper, placed big-data-enabled "meaning making" at the pinnacle of strategic endeavor.

That was enough to prompt me to roll up my sleeves and systematically examine, vertical market by vertical market, how organizations are organizing their path to big data mastery.

Over the past few months, I embarked on a study of how North America's 7,100 banks are approaching the big data opportunity. I found that 20% are doing nothing, 25% are preparing to do something, 30% are currently doing something and 25% are achieving mastery.

Recognizing that each bank is unique, with its own capabilities and habits and its own market reality, I nevertheless sought to identify patterns of behavior evidenced by those banks that seemed to have achieved mastery in big data. The following 10-step, high-level pattern repeated itself in institutions possessing differentiated big data capabilities:

* Step 1: Decide to do something.

* Step 2: Craft a narrative.

* Step 3: Access Type 1 smartness.

* Step 4: Inventory analytical resources.

* Step 5: Assess readiness.

* Step 6: Centrally manage analytical resources.

* Step 7: Create analytic capability.

* Step 8: Obtain the support of senior management.

* Step 9: Act on insight.

* Step 10: Link to behavior.

Type 1 smartness, by the way, is the sort of intelligence possessed by someone who can do unstructured problem-solving, like a doctor, who can diagnose a situation and propose an appropriate course of action.

While the path-to-mastery pattern is conceptually simple, successfully executing it requires courage, perseverance and patience. Delivering the true value of big data is important and difficult.

The thing they don't tell you is that it takes time. Acquiring the body of knowledge, learning the language, adopting the ideas and making the cultural adjustments required for harnessing full value from big data is a cumulative process. The path to big data mastery took one entertainment conglomerate seven years -- three to decide to do something and four to build out the infrastructure. Chris Wegrzyn, director of data architecture for the Democratic National Committee, explained to The Huffington Post why the ramp-up to big data mastery took two years for the Obama 2012 campaign: "It's one thing to build up some technology and hire some people. It's another thing entirely to transform how your operation works fundamentally."

How far along are you on the path to big data mastery?

Thornton A. May is author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics and executive director of the IT Leadership Academy at Florida State College in Jacksonville. You can contact him at thorntonamay@aol.com or follow him on Twitter ( @deanitla).

Read more about management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Why customer experience driven growth is set to take off

Our overall brand perceptions are invariably shaped by our experiences. And loyal customer relationships can be severed in moments by a negative service interaction.

Consistency and conversation: How branding and advertising can work better together

Advertising and branding are two of the most visible outputs of marketing, which is why getting them right is so important. However, too often the line between branding and advertising becomes blurred. This means advertising activity can be out of sync with brand, resulting in poor results for both functions.

Dan Ratner

managing director, uberbrand

Putting your brand on the Love Index

How much do your customers love your brand, product or service?And more importantly, why?

Bronwyn van der Merwe

Managing director, Accenture Interactive

Someone needs a swift kick up the bum for such an idiotic idea.

random

​Why a degree is no longer enough to get you hired as a skilled marketer

Read more

The frequent flyer programs are the new profit machines for airlines all over the world, as they have morphed to be mass marketing machin...

Steve@iFLYflat

Velocity frequent flyers program strong performer in mixed half-year for Virgin

Read more

Hi Jennifer, thanks for sharing these info regarding the digital marketing trends.I've created a related video to this topic, would you m...

Fabio Carry

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Read more

Great news. Marketing automation can be very useful for companies at various stages of development. With so many tools out there it's bet...

Ben

How HBF rolled out marketing automation in eight months

Read more

I read a report that the business sector in Australia as a whole have yet to fully harness and see the proactive change that predictive a...

Alex Martin

Report: Predictive analytics, IoT, machine learning battle it out for marketing dollars

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in