Big Data. A term fan­tas­ti­cally overused, and equally as fan­tas­ti­cally mis­un­der­stood. Kind of like teenage gos­sip: if every­one is talk­ing about some­thing, every­one thinks every­one else is doing it, so every­one says they’re doing it too.

Google Trend shows us the mete­oric rise in how much everyone’s talk­ing about Big Data over the last cou­ple of years:


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It’s not uncom­mon to see peo­ple act like teenagers when it comes to Big Data. Like teenagers, few real­ize what it really means to their busi­ness. While many dis­cuss how they need to man­age Big Data, not enough peo­ple are focused on how they are going to use it. That is, in a nut­shell, the gap between Big Data and cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics. In fact, more than 50% of enter­prises sur­veyed in a recent Gart­ner report stated they don’t know how to get value out of Big Data. Ah, a refresh­ing breath of truth.

So far, most of the dis­cus­sion has been about the IT prob­lems asso­ci­ated with it. The focus is on the immense vol­umes of data that need to be prop­erly struc­tured, tagged, cleansed, and stored. The topic of Big Data can start dis­cus­sions on things like access and secu­rity and stor­age and through­put, and, and, and … These can be impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions, but if you’re run­ning a busi­ness, they’re the last things you want to be wor­ry­ing about. You want to know how what you know can be used to make your rela­tion­ship with your cus­tomer bet­ter. For most of our cus­tomers that means Big Data needs to drive your under­stand­ing of your customer.

I’m always torn when the term Big Data comes up here at Adobe. It’s unfor­tu­nate that so often when the indus­try talks about Big Data it’s focused on size. Size is irrel­e­vant; infrastructure-scale prob­lems have largely been solved. What’s impor­tant is what the enter­prise can do with the data. Stor­ing vast amounts of data in an extremely effi­cient man­ner does not ben­e­fit your enter­prise if you aren’t using that data to gen­er­ate insights that drive mar­ket­ing and busi­ness deci­sions. Let’s be clear: it’s one thing to be able to run queries, it’s another thing alto­gether for your enter­prise to be able to gen­er­ate insights that drive your strat­egy at scale.

We are huge users of Big Data technologies—we man­age tens of petabytes of data, and we process more trans­ac­tions in 30 min­utes than the entire credit card pro­cess­ing net­work processes in a day—but our goal is to help you get the action­able insights you need at scale, not to crunch data en masse.

Your cus­tomer data needs to be usable through­out your enter­prise. It’s not enough for a few folks with really big brains to be able to glean insights from those petabytes of data. If that learn­ing can’t be applied across the enter­prise in the myr­iad inter­ac­tions your cus­tomers have with your brand, it’s not truly help­ing you. Mar­keters and call cen­ters alike should be able to antic­i­pate a customer’s needs based on their pre­vi­ous inter­ac­tions with the enterprise.

All of this means you need to be using the data you’re col­lect­ing to bet­ter under­stand how you can use data to make your customer’s life eas­ier. That can mean some­thing dif­fer­ent for each cus­tomer. The trick is to under­stand how Big Data can help you tai­lor mean­ing­ful mes­sages to each client. For exam­ple, Lenovo uses cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics to under­stand the cus­tomer jour­ney between their dig­i­tal prop­erty and their call cen­ters in order to make both expe­ri­ences more rel­e­vant for their cus­tomers. There is a mea­sur­able pos­i­tive impact to their busi­ness as a result. That’s the good stuff.

Is Big Data impor­tant? Of course it is. But it’s not the defin­ing marker of whether or not your busi­ness will be suc­cess­ful. Your knowl­edge of your cus­tomer is. Cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics helps you ensure you’re mak­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence an easy and pos­i­tive one. That type of cus­tomer ser­vice that can gain you a cus­tomer and brand advo­cate for life … that’s what your data is really for.


Thanks for the comment Joao-

Can't disagree with you on that.  The point I meant to make, whether they're getting value or not, is that companies perceive a gap between what they're doing and what they want to be doing with their customer data.  

My observation is that at the heart of that gap is a lack of individuals who have the ability to help.  The companies that we see succeeding in this challenge are using tools to broaden access to data, rather than trying to hire their way to scale.


Hi Chris,

Nice post but I wouldn't jump the conclusion before reading the study. 

 "In fact, more than 50% of enter­prises sur­veyed in a recent Gart­ner report stated they don’t know how to get value out of Big Data. Ah, a refresh­ing breath of truth."

On the study page: the methodology points to a segmentation by Vertical Industry and Detailed Industry Categories. 

Not knowing which or how many industries and enterprises were surveyed we shouldn't generalize to the whole sample (all enterprises surveyed), this 50% is misleading because it constitutes a generalization. By generalizing we are observing the average, and most of the times averages don't tell the truth.

For example, I have a hard time believing only 50% of banks, insurance companies or telcos know how to get value out of Big Data, they would probably be out of business if they didn't.

Creating a data-driven culture is essencial and in the end it all comes down to people, people asking the right questions and people who are able to answer them.