Farrokh Nasri, professor of informative systems and business analytics at the Frank G. Zarb School of Business, recently moderated a discussion about the intersection of big data, business, and technology that brought together experts from a variety of industries.
Big data offers “new opportunities for competitive advantage. It unlocks the predictive potential of data and helps improve operational efficiency, financial performance, and strategic decisions,” he said.
Data analytics, often referred to as business analytics or big data analytics, is a reformation of data analysis techniques. The increase in accessibility, accuracy, fast pace advancement, and cost effectiveness are all contributing factors to the importance of using data analytics across all industries.
Today, companies can decipher consumer habits and gather a series of algorithmic profiles that can provide clues to what products will appeal to them. Timothy Cecere, chief talent officer and director of human resources at GroupM Worldwide, emphasized how this use of data analytics is especially useful in advertising. “Advertising agents want a happy client with sales going up, Cecere said “We are moving toward a social listening world where the most valuable brands will utilize analytics at their core, with the goal of using data to better understand and serve their consumers.”
At the Krasnoff Quality Management Institute (KQMI), Dr. Yosef Dlugacz, senior vice president and chief of clinical quality, education, and research for Northwell Health, emphasized that data provides a preventative approach to health care. “We analyze data and transform it into evidence-based measurements to provide accurate outcomes,” he said. He added that big data can help educate health care professionals about vital patient history, which allows for a transparency into the clients’ needs when it comes to quality care. “The goal is to process information as quickly as possible to facilitate the best possible outcome for patients and the future of medicine.”
Diane Garnick, managing director and chief income strategist for TIAA and a Zarb alumna, outlined how data has evolved over the years. In phase one, raw data and theories transitioned from paper form toward the beginning of computerized systems. Forecasting consumer wants became key, and information was broken down by generational groups. Phase two was the introduction of semi-structured data – data that could be sorted. However, in this phase there was very little predictive power. Phase three she refers to as “zip code economics.” Garnick said that a “zip code is one of the most important data points about an individual.” The geographic area in which a person lives can help predict what their needs and wants might be. The most valuable tool for a successful businessperson is access to data. Without it, Ms. Garnick says, “you’re just another guy with an opinion.”
Vice president of technology at Avis and a Zarb alumnus, John A. Turato, provided valuable data analytics from an engineering standpoint. He emphasized Moore’s Law, which states that the computing power of a single microchip should double approximately every two years as scientists figure out how to fit increasingly more information into a shrinking space.
Turato related this philosophy to Avis and described how data analytics helps drive the company’s sales. “The level of electronic integration has increased,” he said. “Cars are connected more now than ever (i.e. Wi-Fi, self-driving). Accurate data analytics affects the pricing of cars and amount of time consumers take when shopping for the cars that they want. At Avis, and in general car sales, it is essential for those behind-the-scenes to get involved with the data, and do the analysis required to obtain those key insights.”
The panel closed with a discussion by Michael Rappa, a distinguished professor and director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University. He explained that there is an emerging data ecosystem, creating phenomenal change. Rapidly progressing electronic data creates an urgency to keep up with the masses, while simultaneously keeping personal information secure. “In today’s digital world, we have so much information that must be protected,” Rappa said. “The more data we are able to gain, the more we want to contain, thus, creating the need to delete data as capacity becomes full.” He highlighted the fact that we are “living in a data ecosystem, but [we are] clueless about how it works. Consumer-driven industries value data because of the levels of insight it offers, and it is critical that businesses have the knowledge and expertise to facilitate the extraction and understanding of those key characteristics.”