Key Takeaways

  • Getting access to relevant data is not a problem. The challenge comes from trying to manipulate that data into insights that can propel forward action.
  • There is an opportunity for senior corporate leaders to use big data to inspire innovation and direct change.
  • Even with big data, solid business practices apply: Identify the desired outcome, secure wide buy-in for initiatives, show employees they’re valued, and be responsive to customers.

Securing access to relevant data is not a problem. We’re awash in information, coming from our own organizations, government agencies, industry sources, and a multitude of non-traditional outlets, like social media, sensors, and crowdsourcing.

The challenge comes when we look for insights from these data that results in some forward action. Senior leaders of successful corporations see the role of big data as inspiring innovation and directing change. A group of them recently sat down with McKinsey & Co. to share their thoughts on how this is done.

#1. Evolving Mindset

Murli Buluswar of AIG made the point that as a society we are evolving from a knowing culture to a learning culture that is much more objective and data-driven. Rather than operating from a fixed mindset based on experience, we increasingly see the value of actions that are more learning-oriented. Big data are best used when we discover new relationships and make connections that we couldn’t see before.

#2. A Two-Way Street

One-way sharing of information is no longer acceptable, according to eBay’s Zoher Karu.  He has found that customers are willing to share information if they see some value in that action for themselves. Business can no longer be vendors of information, but must be partners with the customers, fostering two-way communication while also addressing issues of privacy so that the conversation continues.

#3. Outcome First

Starting any process with the desired outcome in mind creates immediate value and gets everyone on board, according to Vince Campisi of GE Software. That holds true with using big data, which should be organized with an outcome in mind. In that way, team members feel confident in bringing in other sources of data and making more connections.

When everyone has access and can make a contribution –when the use of big data is democratized- collaboration occurs naturally.

#4. Cultivate Talent

Buluswar also emphasizes the need to create an environment that encourages the development of staff through the approach taken to big data.  Attracting and retaining high caliber talent requires empowering them to address problems that have an impact on the company and can also serve to advance the industry as a whole. Meaningful work leads to job satisfaction.

#5. Facilitate Communication

Karu went on to say that big data are not best used in isolation. The professionals handling data should have the broader background knowledge to be able to communicate with other parts of the organization. This is critical for getting actionable strategies from aggregated information, and helps everyone grasp the significance of the information and how it relates to real efforts underway.

These senior leaders in some of the world’s foremost companies all agree that big data are an essential component of successful strategy –whatever your industry. Big data may be the latest addition to the toolbox, but basic sound business principles apply. Identify the desired outcome, secure wide buy-in for initiatives, show employees they’re valued, and be responsive to customers – sound familiar?

Putting it all Together

From my point of view, being a leader is mainly about inspiring people to not only feel they have the tools to do their jobs, but to inspire them to think outside the box as if they own the company themselves. Finally, we’re able to demonstrate and show more about our companies through big data than ever before. But big data only becomes relevant (big) when you apply it to what means and matters to the people that work at your company —those doing the jobs necessary to keep not only the clients, but the people they work with moving forward and happy.

When you give your team members the tools they need to succeed, you’re enabling them to be self sustaining. At my company, for example, we use tools which allow our team members to become “programmers” in essence —using the connectivity of the platforms and big data to make the systems work for them!

This is where CRE needs to go! It’s just starting to get there —and those that jump on board will see inspiring results.