The Vs and Ss to conquer to make ‘Big’ data smart

10 March 2016

This is a story about four Vs and six Ss. After all, we humans love lists don’t we! And yes, it is based on research and analysis. And no, it isn’t a good example of big data.


The four Vs of big data

Big data, whether it’s hype or not, is certainly a term that gets used and abused. All too often it turns out to involve some seriously, absolutely massive Excel files. Alternatively, that you can do “stuff” with it that no-one asked for. It all too rarely involves a meaningful, effective application of what the concept entails. In particular, with regards to what it can do for you, as a customer, as a human being, as a manager and as anything or anyone else.


The four Vs that make big data different from “normal” data

By definition, describing big data involves 4 Vs that make big data distinct from ‘normal’ data:

  • Volume – a large volume of data, particularly driven by the digital transition and, for example, the Internet of Things.
  • Variety – in various different forms, structured and unstructured.
  • Velocity – data that must be able to be processed at high speed.
  • Veracity – that has a lower level of accuracy and reliability, requiring more tests.

These features, and what they entail, already pose a significant challenge for most organisations. However, whilst a good definition is a good place to start, big data only really becomes successful when you know how to apply it. 


The six Ss you need to conquer

When we look at what is required to make data work for you, regardless of how “big” it actually is, there are six Ss to conquer:

  • Specify – if there are inadequate parameters and processes for the purpose and application of this data: what are we doing this for? What are we going to achieve? When? And how can we measure it? Set out how data can help you generate insights that will enable resources and channels to be utilised better. It is this optimisation that will help you achieve your objectives – not data for its own sake.
  • Service – what benefit will this give you? What is the data going to do for you? In terms of the value for your customer, and the value of your customer. Both in the short and long term. In terms of your company’s ability to stand out from the crowd. Or with partners in the chain? A great example of this is the logistics sector, where sharing data means that different flows connect with each other better and therefore products reach customers more quickly.
  • Share – in order to unlock and intelligently utilise data and insights, you have to go beyond the boundaries between divisions and organisations. The real work only begins once you combine the strengths of multiple disciplines. Consequently, you need multidisciplinary or cross-organisational teams that can find the best utilisation from multiple different approaches. Decision-making about budget allocations for innovations of this kind also needs to be organised at the highest level, in order to avoid individual managers sitting jealously on their own “pot of money”.
  • Security – privacy & security can be a tremendous obstacle to the application of data. Finding the right approach in this area once again relies upon collaboration. This could mean risk and compliance departments working together with marketing. Working together to think of what could be possible, not what could not be possible.
  • Steady – start with what you already have before getting carried away with dreams about the potential possibilities of big data. It is often the case that the possibilities of the data and insights you already have within easy reach have still yet to be realised. You will encounter fewer setbacks and expend less energy if you start by working with these. It will also give your organisation the chance to develop the skills, structures and processes necessary to work with big data.
  • Save – never throw anything away! Data storage really isn’t an expense worth considering anymore. Whilst collecting data to save, also start working on the processes you will use to gather data, turn it into insights and distribute it.


Go for the 7th S!

If you’ve read this far you might be thinking “OK, that was an interesting list, but now what?”
There’s work to do. My advice is the following:

  • Begin with smart data:
  • Ignore internal and external organisational boundaries, think ‘out of the box’ – a bit of dreaming is fine!
  • Start off with what you already have, bring it together, look for quick wins with tangible results.
  • Have the courage to do it: get to work with a team from different corners of your business: do it, measure it, learn.
  • Add a pinch of passion for your profession and plenty of enthusiasm into this recipe, conquer the six Ss and the 7th S will be in your grasp. The S for Success!

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