Your company has an important decision to make: Will you allow your data to remain as a business liability, or will you harness its power and turn it into a valuable asset?

Unused data is a liability for your business. Not only is your cost of storage more than necessary, but you are also leaving yourself open to increased cyber-security risks. When you evaluate your data against business goals and determine what data is beneficial to keep and what additional data can be incorporated, you have now turned that data liability into an asset. This allows you to streamline operations, solve problems, make more informed decisions, and improve the services you provide to your clients.

Keep in mind that you are not alone in your quest to turn your data into an asset. If your competition hasn’t already taken steps to integrate data analytics into their business decisions, you can bet they are considering their options right now. The first company to move ahead will grab the competitive advantage.

Case studies of well-recognized brands abound. Many illustrate how companies are using data to succeed in one of five ways: generating new revenue models; developing a new generation of products and services; guiding important business decisions; segmenting customer bases; or simplifying service solutions to improve customer satisfaction.

The good news is that the value of data knows no bounds; regardless of your industry, company size, or current business objectives, you can use data to boost your reputation and your bottom line.

Big Data Application #1: Generate New Revenue Models

Big data has the potential to provide a wealth of information that can lead to new revenue models. When you incorporate data from traditional internal databases and new external data sources, you create the right variety and volume of data for improved decision making. By using data science tactics, cognitive machine learning, analytic technologies and artificial intelligence to leverage this data, you will gain new insights into how to re-monetize one or more aspects of your business.

In 2011, copier and fax giant Xerox did exactly that. CEO Ursula Burns recognized how the ballooning world of digital information might squeeze Xerox right out of its status as a leading company. Data analysis predicted that Xerox could monetize its mastery of real-time data. The company’s machines already had the capacity to read and understand documents, translate languages, and route data, and the machines could do these things more quickly and accurately than any human ever could. For the next six years, Xerox did much more than dabble in its newfound service offering; the company became a primary provider of digitized data for corporations and government agencies.

If you think that your company will never be able to replicate the successes of companies like Xerox, think again. Data analytics has become a savior of sorts for companies that otherwise might have found themselves on the brink of extinction. Case in point: Schneider Electric boasted 150 years of history in the iron and steel manufacturing industry. Fortunately, their executives embraced the promise of data analytics, and they successfully transitioned the focus of their company toward energy optimization, smart-grid management and business automation.

Big Data Application #2: Develop a New Generation of Products and Services

Some companies have chosen to embrace data as a tool to build on the success of their existing products and services. By introducing new generation offerings, these companies have effectively pulled their customers one level deeper into a relationship, and they have also opened the door to completely new markets. In 2016, coffee behemoth Starbucks effectively turned their data into a valuable business asset (again).

Starbucks spent time analyzing what seemed to be rather mundane data: what percentage of tea-drinking customers preferred no sweetener, and what percentage of customers drank iced coffee without milk. The results gave Starbucks the confidence to introduce a new product line into a new market: grocery stores.

Big Data Application #3: Make Business Decisions Based on Data Analytics

The Gulf Coast is the mecca of the U.S. petrochemical industry, begging the question, “Why would Shell Chemical Appalachia (Shell) choose to construct its $20 billion ethylene cracker plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the rust belt?” According to Shell representatives, the decision was made with confidence because it was based on data – volumes of data and years of analysis. Other companies have based their acquisition strategies on the same premise of thorough data analytics.

You don’t have to be in an acquisition mode or investing $20 billion to positively impact your business decisions, though. Well-managed data works for every business enterprise.

Big Data Application #4: Enhance Customer Satisfaction

Companies large and small have found data to be a valuable asset in the furtherance of customer satisfaction. After all, customer experience – even as a standalone – is a valuable asset.

Customers with large service and sales call centers have learned to use data to streamline processes and enhance customer satisfaction. Companies like GoDaddy rely on representatives to quickly and accurately solve the problems of customers. Complex products and complex solutions can frustrate customers, but data makes solutions quickly accessible to service representatives so they can guide customers in the shortest amount of time and with the greatest amount of accuracy.

When banks found themselves up against competition from non-bank entities, they knew they had to do a better job of keeping customers happy. To better understand the expectations of their customers, banks gleaned information from multiple sources: ATM transactions, online banking, teller volume, telephone banking, and more. By understanding the habits and preferences of their customers, banks learned to improve customer experience.

UPS has used package tracking for decades, but sensors have moved analytics from behind the scenes to the forefront of daily operations. Each day, UPS captures information on the 16 million packages delivered daily; additionally, telematics sensors are tracking more than 46,000 company trucks, including details such as speed, direction, braking, and drivetrain performance. This comprehensive analysis has improved fleet maintenance, gas efficiency, and driver productivity.

Big Data Application #5: Gather Marketing Insights

Marketers are having a heyday with data, finding more and more ways to narrow customer segments so they can tailor their offerings to customer demands. No doubt you have seen the tip of the targeted advertising movement when ads follow you from website to website. Companies are tracking your behavior and history, and they are doing it well; once a DSW shopper, always a DSW advertising target. Marketing professionals use that data to improve customer engagement, product preferences, and customer satisfaction.

It’s important to remember that BIG DATA has nothing to do with BIG INDUSTRY. Big data simply means that the amount of data available to businesses of every size is ballooning. Your company, large or small, has equal opportunity to apply data analytics to attain your business objectives, whether you want to add new streams of revenue, improve customer satisfaction, or find ways to market more effectively.

The question remains: Will you allow your data to remain as a business liability, or will you harness its power and turn it into a valuable asset?

About Jeff Eiben: Jeff Eiben is principal owner of River Point Technology, a Pittsburgh, PA-based company that offers comprehensive data assessments and a unique implementation methodology that helps companies visualize the benefits of data-driven solutions. Eiben can be reached directly at jeiben@RiverPointTechnology.com. More information is available at www.riverpointtechnology.com.

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