By Dan Berthiaume
Last week, I wrote an article describing the challenge of “Big Data,” the challenge of capturing, sorting, and storing exponentially growing volumes of data about products and brands consumers generate every second on social networks and other forms of new media. Outsourcing can help companies offload Big Data-related activities such as collecting information and maintaining collection systems while increasing their focus on synthesizing the data they gather and leveraging it in the marketing and R&D process.
Today, I will take a closer look at some of the advanced tools companies and their BPO partners can use to make collecting and analyzing Big Data a more manageable task – and yield greater ROI.
Obtaining a Vision
In the quantitative data world, visualization tools such as heat maps, which graphically represent concentrations of data, have proven extremely helpful. In the world of analyzing textual data, such as Twitter posts or discussion threads on public online forums, there are also tools available, such tag clouds and word counts, to help visualize the connections of words to others.
Best Big Data Tools Help with Innovation, Collaboration
Vahe Katros, a Palo Alto-based independent retail consultant with extensive experience in mining Big Data, says the best tools for analyzing textual data help with innovation. “This includes tools such as collaboration platforms, or perhaps platforms that let you tie in your customer panels so you can iterate your ideas,” Katros says. “I think having tools that tie in third parties, like design research firms or developers who know how to do agile development, would work, and that’s leading-edge.”
Of course, collaboration among customers already goes on every day via social media, whether in the form of well-known platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube; as well as cloud-sourced collaborative sites like Starbucks Idea. In addition, collaboration also occurs routinely on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, producing a breadth and depth of qualitative data Katros says is popularly known as the “voice of the customer.”
“Capturing, analyzing, synthesizing, and using this ‘voice of the customer’ data to drive improvements in products and services is considered the Holy Grail of the next generation of business,” explains Katros. “It’s also known as customer-centered design or social network innovation. These new practices require whole new sets of tools, processes, and talent to effectively manage and leverage the plethora of this new data.”
BPO Can Eliminate the Learning Curve
Visualization and collaboration tools, which may be based on open source software frameworks such as Apache Hadoop, can be invaluable to companies’ efforts at mining Big Data to obtain crucial information about how customers view their products and services, in near-real-time. This allows companies to remedy problems, as well as intensify efforts that work well, much more responsively.
However, while some companies may possess these tools and the expertise to use them in-house, most probably do not. The application of BPO can eliminate what may be a steep learning curve required to properly select, implement, and leverage Big Data analysis tools. Outsourcing can also ease the use of these tools to collaborate with designers and developers. It is said a poor carpenter blames his tools, but that saying is based on the assumption the carpenter has tools he knows how to use and has been using for a long time.