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In today’s high-tech world, data is everywhere. Currently, there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced every day, and that’s increasing daily. Whether you’re seeing sponsored ads while fueling your social media addiction or analyzing statistics to better understand your clientele, data is constantly inspiring the world around us. But what exactly is it? And how does one use it to enhance their business?

To put it simply, "Big Data" is how we refer to large complex sets of data that are used to address difficult business problems. Although it originally became useful in the ’60s and ’70s with the start of the first data centers, it didn’t really hit its stride until 2005 when users saw the value of data through Facebook and YouTube. Big Data has now grown into its own beast and is only going to continue to develop (ex. The Cloud) and become more useful for every working field.

How can I use data in my job?

It used to be a common perception that analyzing data in your job meant that you were a data analyst or data scientist. In reality, data can be used in any field. Whether you work in marketing, real estate, HR, or benefit from it in your daily life, analyzing data can introduce a whole world of opportunities and insight that you couldn’t otherwise access.

Marketing

With a plethora of information at our fingertips on the daily, there’s plenty of material to help marketers truly understand their customers. Since marketing is driven by data-backed research, they can combine all their sources to create products that feel very relatable to consumers of all kinds. No matter what field you’re in, customer information can be collected at every stage that they interact with you. That means companies don’t have to guess what you want, but instead can use data to pinpoint it exactly, benefiting the customer and the company. For example, corporations can look at your browsing patterns, social media activity and your online purchase behaviour. Analyzing these patterns helps companies understand their target audience and how best to benefit their clients.

Human Resources

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016, “as technology makes data-driven HR decision-making a possibility, 77 percent of executives now rate analytics as a key priority”. This means that data helps you understand all aspects of your business and customers. It can point out your strengths and weaknesses, highlight trends and patterns, and back up your decisions. In fact, according to AIIM, data can help:

  • Decrease failed hires
  • Improve benefits packages
  • Support and understand legal and ethical issues
  • Increase retention rates
  • Predict performance

Big Data has proven to be so beneficial to HR that companies are building people analytics teams and 44% are using workforce data to predict business performance. They leverage this data to identify top candidates before hiring and to keep their employees happy and engaged.

Education

When you think of education, data may not be at the top of your mind. But it’s actually very beneficial to the education system. Analyzing information from academic and demographic data can not only help teachers create better programs, but it can allow for families to help their children maximize their education. Some ways the education system collects data is through test scores, attendance rates, demographic information assessments and course grades. Even looking at data from student safety and observations can be useful. By analyzing all forms of data, a full picture is created, which showcases the strengths and weaknesses of students and allows everyone involved to make informed decisions.

The important note? Collect data in a safe way yet make it accessible to those that need it to help them better understand the situation. Doing this can help the teachers build more developed programs and teaching methods that help each unique student, while the students (with the help from the parents) can better understand how they learn best and how to further their learning in the most beneficial way.

Real Estate

Using Big Data in real estate has been a game-changer for the industry. It not only gives buyers the confidence they need to purchase a home but it’s helped developers build places that suit the locals in various neighbourhoods. Analyzing Big Data can match customers with their ideal home by analyzing how many bedrooms they need, neighbourhoods, affordability, crime rates, average rent prices, school zones and location.

As for real estate agents, Big Data is beneficial for business strategy as well. It allows them to humanize the listing and really understand what each home offers, aside from square footage and floor plans. Instead of relying on their gut feelings like in the past, real estate agents can use real numbers and helpful information to sell to their clients. It can also help with their social media and marketing presence because they can market the home as a lifestyle rather than just a house.

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How does data affect my everyday life?

Big Data isn’t just useful in business; it’s also prevalent in your daily life. Many of your everyday activities including listening to music, working out and scrolling social media harness your actions to request more entertainment options for you. For example, Spotify collects user listening information to create customized playlists while Instagram tracks your engagement to streamline their sponsored ads and suggested accounts that match your interests.

But, it’s not just entertainment that’s utilizing Big Data; safety is improving greatly as well. By analyzing the correct data, companies can better prevent workplace injuries from occurring . For example, if a company such as a factory has a lot of machines, one can track the safety inspection and observation data to predict when an injury could occur when no other signs point to a harmful situation. According to Tom Davenport, in the book Competing on Analytics, “once a company can predict what will happen in the future, they can optimize their response to this prediction and achieve the best outcome. In safety, this means predicting and then preventing workplace injuries.”

Big Data is also transforming the healthcare industry. Although there are restrictions to using data in terms of privacy, once it’s accessible it provides groundbreaking statistics. For caregivers and administrators, they are able to make more informed medical and financial decisions and improve their methods for patient care. Analyzing evidence-based Big Data also furthers our understanding of best practices associated with diseases, injuries and illnesses. Even using your FitBit or Apple Watch is beneficial for healthcare professionals and consumers alike. As these watches keep tabs on the physical level of individuals, Physicians use the data as part of their health and wellness programs. For the consumer, various apps help them manage their conditions and allows researchers to collect data from millions of worldwide users.

The Three Vs of Big Data

With so much data out there, it can be hard to comprehend its power and how to use it in a beneficial way. But, if you break it down and find the data that matches your business, it will be extremely useful. To help understand what Big Data really is, Gartner explains it as high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision-making, and process automation”. In other words, the “three v’s of data”:

  • Volume: Referring to the sheer amount of data that can be analyzed. This can be anything from Twitter data feeds, web page clicks, or temperature sensors in your home.

  • Velocity: Referring to the rate at which data is received. It can come from social media or how quickly a business can process its data.

  • Variety: Referring to the types of data that are available. Big Data typically comes in unstructured data sets such as text, audio and video, which require preprocessing before one can access its value.

With the proper use of Big Data, it can be a major player in improving your business and helping your customers.

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