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What Do You Wish You Knew?

Ask this question when molding your big-data strategy, and you just might make some use out of all those kilobytes.

"Drinking From the Fire Hose"

According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. Who can get their minds around that factoid, let alone around all that data?

Companies certainly want to, and many have created teams to figure out how all that data can lead to better decision-making. But with so much information available, how do you decide where to start?

Christopher J. Frank, vice president of global marketplace insights at American Express, has a suggestion. Writing in Forbes, he recommends a simple but powerful one-question approach: When it comes to your business, what do you wish you knew?

The “I wish I knew” (IWIK) test “is a catalyst for a brainstorming discussion to identify wants and needs with respect to big data,” he explains. Identify and prioritize your IWIKs (for example, I wish I knew X about my customers; I wish I knew Y about my suppliers; I wish I knew Z about my competitors) and you’ll avoid getting lost in the sheer quantity of data.

Don’t be afraid to think big — it could be essential for success. A joint survey of 3,000 executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value and the MIT Sloan Management Review led to a five-point methodology “for successfully implementing analytics-driven management and for rapidly creating value.” The starting point: “Focus on the biggest and highest-value opportunities.”

As the study’s authors explain, “Does attacking the biggest challenge carry the biggest risk of failure? Paradoxically, no — because big problems command attention and incite action… When the stakes are big, the best talent will leap at the opportunity to get involved.”



If you’ve yet to initiate a big-data game plan, here’s the good news: You’re not alone.

According to a report by TDWI, 26 percent of organizations surveyed did not yet practice any form of advanced analytics or big data mining. Inadequate staffing and skills (46 percent) was the leading barrier, and cost (42 percent) was second.

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