At the dawn of the 20th century, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line and forever changed the means of production. A shift as radical and as significant is taking place today in the accumulation, processing, analysing and sharing of data.
“Companies that don’t use big data will fail,” declared Heidi Messer (pictured above) of Collective[i] at the start of the Socialising Big Data session with Dave Goldberg of SurveyMonkey, Stefan Olander of Nike, and moderated by Diane Brady from Bloomberg Businessweek. Thanks to data, she said, “companies are turning marketing functions over to maths majors. At the same time, marketing is going back to what it has always been, a creative function.”
But there is more to big data than just getting a hold of it and giving it to the maths guys. “We’ve had data for a long time but only now are we figuring out how to make it useful,” said Mr Goldberg. He stressed that it needs to go beyond marketing: “It should be a part of everybody’s job to use data to make their jobs more creative.” Ms Messer echoed that sentiment.
Companies that properly understand how to analyse the deluge of data — which will come from multiple, disparate sources — are the ones that will survive and thrive.
There is one hitch, however: users. Privacy concerns will dominate the headlines in the weeks to come as the EU and US both release proposals to legislate for data protection. According to Mr Goldberg, there is a simpler, much more elegant solution than legislation:
“We have tried to create laws to protect people. Unfortunately those laws can’t keep up with technology. The consumer has to understand what they’re giving and how it might be used. If it’s not clear, they’re going to be upset. But as long as you make sure of those things, most people are okay with it.”
Mr Olander said his company already practices this: “We don’t view it as our data. Customers entrusted us with their information. The best thing we can do with it is inspire them to be better and they will reward us with their loyalty.”
The panelists agreed that the big trend future in coming years will be using data in healthcare. Personalised medicine will revolutionise the way we live and die. It may even decide when and perhaps if we die. That will undoubtedly blow open privacy debates even further. But for now, that isn’t stopping firms big and small from rushing headlong to being the first in that sphere.