Like Big Data? Prepare Your Organization

There is a fairly straightforward post on the HBR blog about putting big data to use. The article provides guidelines to companies who recognize the potential of big data, but aren’t sure where to start. It provides guidance on what kinds of opportunities to pursue and how to make sure you get access to the data you need.

But I particularly like the fourth of their four suggestions:


4. Understand the organizational implications

Finally, it’s important to note that the threats and opportunities associated with big data often have organizational implications that only concerted senior-executive attention can address. For example, at another telecom player, the consumer data-insights team learned that two things led to the most rapid spread of negative word of mouth about the company on social-media and microblogging sites: network outages and any perception by customers that the company had made false advertising claims about its products or network. Initially, the marketing and network organizations, rather than cooperate, blamed one another for the findings. Only when senior executives forced the two sides to work more closely together and build trust could the company capitalize on the information, by tailoring marketing messages to better explain new-product rollouts and network upgrades.

We identified the same dynamic with social media in Humanize. So often, organizations struggle with social media implementation–not because they don’t know how to do social media, but because their organizations were not built in ways that are compatible with the way social media works. I think the same is likely true, to some extent, when it comes to big data. In the example above, the authors are pointing out that rigidly siloed departments that quickly resort to blame just won’t work in an organization that leverages big data. The whole point of big data analysis is to discover insights that cut across traditional lines, so we would expect the need for cross-departmental collaboration.

I recommend you start working on those organizational problems BEFORE you invest in the big data initiative.

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