Big data and Customer Intelligence: it’s NOT about technology!

Everybody keeps talking about the potential of big data, especially data about the customer. Customer intelligence, as it is often called, is sometimes considered to be ‘the new gold’. And who are we to question the value of data as a source of useful information?

Of course insight in the customer’s history, preferences and behavior can make the difference, and be the start of a long and sustainable growth. But this potential will only be fully exploited when you are aware of certain pitfalls and misunderstandings.

One of these potential misunderstandings is created by the buzz that surrounds big data. Big data, together with cloud computing, is probably the biggest technology trend of the past few years. Because of the compelling technology that creates this buzz, people are often tempted to reduce big data to a technology-only story. The reality is entirely different. Big data and customer intelligence should not be reduced to a tech talk with the IT department about databases, warehouses and analytics. General management and/or business line managers should always be involved in the conversation, because they will have to support and drive the customer intelligence initiatives. Ideally they will come up with compelling customer intelligence projects themselves. After all, they are the ones that can use and benefit from the data intelligence.

Big data is not an objective, but a means to a well-defined business objective. So you should never start a big data project because it seems like the right thing to do or because everybody else does it. Big data should support specific business targets and business projects. what do you need to know about your customers? What insights create a competitive advantage within your sector? These are the type of questions that should be defined before you embark on any big data project. Number crunching must never become a goal in itself. If it does, your investment in big data will never pay off.