Every time we use a cell phone, surf the Web, interact on Facebook, make a purchase, what have you, we create data that businesses, charities, and other organizations analyze to learn more about us.
While such a scenario sounds Orwellian, it is not necessarily terrible. For example, if your local supermarket chain knows from your frequent shopper card that you buy Kashi Go-Lean cereal four or five packages at a time, you might appreciate them telling you when Kashi goes on sale. It’s a win-win situation: you want to stock up on Kashi for the best price, and the store wants to bait you with the Kashi in the hopes you’ll buy more than the cereal.
But I digress. The fact that we create data both seamlessly and almost instantaneously with every one of life’s transactions has greatly increased the demand for tools and specialized professionals to analyze that data and help companies turn it into actionable information. In fact, IBM is banking its future growth on analytics, a market estimated to be worth $100 billion, by its planned purchase of Netezza, which it announced last week.
Analytics is big business, and even if your job description doesn’t require you to analyze data, you should be aware of it. Almost anything electronic can be tracked and/or monitored these days. Anytime you get an email offer from an online retailer you’ve done business with, or direct mail from a charity or other retailer, you’ve been selected by analytical tools who are viewing your past purchasing and giving history.
If you run a business, you should be cognizant of all the data you accumulate and the ways in which you accumulate it. What’s more, you should weigh the data you’re currently collecting against the decisions it helps you make, so that you can identify additional data you may need. This can be a goldmine for you in helping you better understand your customers’ needs and wants, identify new trends and changing patterns, and develop new products in services in response to those changing needs and wants.
Data and the need to analyze it are here to stay.