FEATURE4 October 2012

Big companies, big data

Data analytics

Ford, Orange Business Services and Coca-Cola on how they are looking to make the most out of the masses of information available to them.

Jim Farley
Chief marketing officer
Ford Motor Company

It’s amazing how much data is out there, but the question is, How do we put it in a form that’s usable? We’ve opened a Silicon Valley lab to try and answer this question, because we believe big data is an essential fixture for marketers and innovators in the future.

Our lab’s mission will be to look at how big data can leverage technologies embedded in cars to make better business decisions, from marketing campaigns through to vehicle safety features. The possibilities for this data are endless.

In our case, in-car sensing and remote app management software create a virtuous cycle of information. The data allows our engineers to glean information on a range of issues, from how drivers are using their vehicles, to the driving environment, electromagnetic forces affecting the vehicle and feedback on other road conditions that could help improve the quality, safety, fuel economy and emissions of the vehicle.

Big data technology means we can make sure we’re targeting the most influential customers, communicating to them in the ways they want and guaranteeing that our marketing spend is going to be most effectively targeted.

There’s no doubt big data will be huge in the next few years but only if it is wisely applied and mined. There’s still work to be done here, but we are definitely on the right track.

Gordon Markyllos
Managing director
security, big data and mobile devices
Orange Business Services

Big data is becoming a key concern for marketers and research technologists as the pressure is on to manage and house bigger data volumes – more than ever before.

Online research is a cornerstone of online shopping. 24% of UK shoppers are using their mobiles before making an online purchase. And social media is highly effective in its ability to transmit word-of-mouth marketing messages online. Capitalising on this has become a necessity for any retail operation.

As well as meeting regulatory requirements for greater transparency and a more comprehensive record of past customer activities, big data can also serve a purpose in other areas, such as dispute resolution.

But the challenges of big data are twofold – dealing with the volume and the diversity of data. All of this information has to be stored, with extra volume coming from additional data sources. We are now starting to see the inclusion of voice, along with a wider set of communication data, in the deployment of data analytics engines. So technologists must be prepared.

Above and beyond issues of volume and diversity, there is the additional challenge of processing, analysing and interrogating the data. The turnaround of requests – the speed of processing – will be key.

Although we have not reached a point where a firm can easily buy data analytics for specific investigations or analysis on demand (i.e. ‘pay as you go’), this concept is reasonably easy to understand and appears to be more accessible to a wider range of budgets.

The big data debate is still developing but for larger firms the need to manage data effectively will quickly become a reality. Outsourcing and ‘as a service’ options could serve as alternatives to internal technology infrastructure reviews and investment.

Esat Sezer
Chief big data
insights officer
Coca-Cola Enterprises

Big data has played an essential role in helping us engage with our audiences. We have 40 million Facebook followers and big data helps us relate to them better and bolster our brand advocacy.

The role of a big data officer is to be strategic, rather than tactical. There is a world of opportunity out there in the social universe that big data can tap into, if you invest in the relevant knowhow.

The key thing to focus on is that big data must be seen to add strategic value to the business. Many shy away from this now because they don’t know how to realise this goal. I think this will change as a new calibre of experts flood the market and open up new possibilities.

Social media, mobile applications, cloud computing and e-commerce are combining to give companies like Coca-Cola an unprecedented toolset to change the way they approach IT. Behind all this, big data gives you the intelligence to cap it all off.

By embracing these technologies you will be able to respond more quickly to changing market conditions than rivals can and gain next-gen productivity tools to improve collaboration and business processes. This is achieved by rethinking your business model, such as tapping into social and location-based commerce.

Within Coca-Cola, we have created a shared services centre for our financial transactional activities. We created another employee service centre for our human resources activities. And they are consolidated. They provide services to all our business units and regions. Financial activities and HR services used to be handled by the local business units and the countries in which we operate. Today they operate a shared services model. Big data is therefore unified across our company.

The key thing to remember is that we’re not innovating for the sake of innovating. Innovation for us means differentiated capabilities, either in revenue growth management, in sales and customer services, or in the supply chain – big data has influences across all of these and is a vital component of our business.

1 Comment

12 years ago

It's totally right that data is the oil of the future and companies like Ford have to take the best out of it. But it doesnt. Ford's data policies are old-fashioned and unflexible. There are many examples like central (in terms of one continent) databases, long application procedures for marketing data and a bulk of different databases very hard to overlook even for insiders,.....

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