In a back stage interview, Factual Inc. CEO Gil Elbaz and Cortera Inc. CEO Jim Swift discuss the drivers and requirements to build a Big Data capability plan.
By Marie Giangrande, Public Notions
Tracking Behaviors Fuel Big Data
“It’s all about tracking events and behaviors in order to improve the accuracy of your decision making” asserts Cortera CEO Jim Swift. Cortera produces credit worthiness rankings from tracking the purchases and payments that a Company conducts. “When evaluating companies it’s good to hear what they are saying, but most important is to see their actual behaviors; tracking actual payments and purchases, for example will give a more accurate prediction of a company’s credit worthiness” continues Swift. Factual’s CEO, Gil Elbaz, agrees: “People expect and need the context to correctly interpret data… stitching together the facts and illustrating the backdrop is what Big Data is all about.” Factual offers a path for companies to source external data, enrich their own data and incorporate a variety of new data sets.
Prognostication Capabilities – The Next Competitive Battle
Behavioral targeting has been used extensively by online companies to target advertisements. Now, this concept is gaining broader appeal as a long term competitive advantage enabling Information Companies to match their content to their client’s workflow and distribution preferences. Companies can use behavior tracking to build predictions about client preferences, to identify partnerships and to develop value added services.
The pursuit of prognostication capabilities has a tremendous consequence: It redefines the importance of data in an organization. It puts an emphasis on data management capabilities. Can I handle streaming data from Twitter feeds or social media outlets? Is a ‘just in time approach’ to data collection needed? Can I enrich my data in order to monetize it? Is the data accurate and extensible?
The Strategic Information Spine
“A lot of companies are living with inefficient collection and maintenance of data. They ignore missing data and inaccurate data because they do not associate the underlying data to their ability to compete” comments Factual’s CEO, Gil Elbaz.
However, as soon as executives link their ability to compete with the value and accuracy of their data, the ROI presents itself. “It’s like an Information Spine” reflects Cortera’s CEO, Swift.”For information companies, the core stream of data is the spine and off this, hangs all their products and services.” The implication is that a company’s ability to compete will come back to the design, sourcing, accuracy and strategic health ‘of the spine’.
An Asset or Liability?
As firms embrace the use of big data for a competitive advantage, it changes all the questions and answers. It leads companies to develop a more strategic view: they identify data assets and data liabilities around maintenance and accuracy.
“But many companies don’t discriminate between data that is an asset versus data that is more common and can be outsourced.” comments Factual’s Elbaz. “If you can buy the data, it is most likely not a strategic asset to build internally” continues Elbaz. In fact, Data that is missing, inaccurate and difficult to maintain may not only be an opportunity cost, but it can be a liability, especially if not kept fresh.
For non-proprietary data, companies are developing Data Acquisition plans to give them new agility along with a managed cost structure. “Just as IT Managers embraced Open Source code, now Business Managers are embracing Open Sourced Data” Factual CEO Elbaz concludes. Elbaz points to dozens of internal databases that should be deleted and licensed from readily available, external, sources. He asks, “Why allocate internal resources to manage data you don’t have to?”
Finding the Skills
But finding the skills to manage the internal build, the external licensing and the data architecture is hard to find. “The biggest problem is the lack of people and talent needed for companies to bootstrap their efforts” claims Cortera’s Swift. Data architects and data developers are very different from software developers and IT managers. And both CEO’s agree this is not -necessarily- the role of a CTO or CIO.
Who, inside your company, could nurture and expand your newly found Data assets? The first step, it seems, is for us to prognosticate on that.