While big data scientists are often perceived as the key to unlocking the potential value of big data, research conducted by the University of Kent indicates a different view.
Dr Maggie Zeng from Kent Business School, in collaboration with Professor Keith Glaister from the Warwick Business School, investigated the use of big data within five Chinese internet platform companies that have put big data at the heart of their operations.
They interviewed 42 individuals in senior management positions, including CEOs, at these firms, as well as conducting 34 interviews with partner firms and third-party developers, who work with these companies, to understand how they use big data internally and externally. They also analysed meeting minutes and business strategy documents to inform their research.
Their findings suggest that firms that hire many data scientists do not always generate better value creation opportunities. Rather, it was the process of data management where managers are able to ‘democratize, contextualize, experiment and execute’ around the use of big data that helped firms derive the most benefits.
This is based on four key areas that senior managers can facilitate:
Data democratisation: By allowing more employees to access and interpret data it gives firms a better chance of insights being derived and enables better cross-team collaboration to ensure the right questions are being asked and answered.
Data contextualisation: Ensuring other relevant business information is accessible to staff enables them to place the data they are working with in the wider context of the organisation and understand what the results they generate mean.
Data experimentation: Creating an environment where staff feel able to experiment with data on a ‘trial and error’ basis enables them to find new insights within the data that more rigid data analysis structures prevent.
Data insight execution: Managers must create a culture where insights derived from big data analysis can quickly be used to ensure the potential benefits the insights offer are realised.
The insights could help other businesses understand how to make better use of their ever-increasing data silos to enable strategic decision-making.
The research was published in a paper titled Value creation from big data: Looking inside the black box, in the journal Strategic Organisation.