The term “big data” prompts a range of different responses and emotions. For some, it might evoke anticipation and excitement in the knowledge that, if analyzed properly and put to good use, the reams of collectible data available today can have a profound positive impact on business performance, quality of life, and society. For others, the term might be met with an “enough already” eye roll and frustration or a feeling of being overwhelmed by the notion of this nonstop machine of information.
Either way, there is no denying that big data analytics is here to stay. As we move into a new year, let’s examine some industries and areas in which big data is poised to have a significant impact in 2015.
Human Resources and People Management
The transformation of the human resources function from an administrative cost center to a value-adding organizational component has begun. It’s ripe for continued emergence in the coming year thanks to new data analytics capabilities. Big data will lead to “smarter” hiring, with decisions guided by predictive models developed for that particular job. For example, hiring decisions could be based on information such as phrases used in the resume, commuting distance, or consistency in answering questions. The specific factors and their weights would vary by job type. This would lead to better success rates, lower employee churn, and less time to make hiring decisions. Big data will further help management understand how to optimize employee productivity and performance, project potential shortfalls in expertise and manpower, and better align investments in talent and new hires with business results.
Delivering the Tailored Political Message
The mid-term elections are fully in the rear view mirror, which means a respite from the seemingly non-stop glut of political advertising that dominated the airwaves in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day. Fear not, it won’t be long before attention turns to 2016 and the advertising machines are churning at full speed once again. And when they are back in gear, expect data analytics to play a major role in how candidates and their campaign managers determine where to allocate precious campaign dollars. Data analytics will allow for a much more granular level of targeting, enabling political campaigns to tailor specific messages to voters in a hyper-local and highly specific way. New concepts such as “addressable advertising” will take things even a step further, as candidates can bypass the program airtime marketplace and have specialized campaign messages delivered via set-top box to the desired target. Many efficiencies will be gained from incorporating data analytics into campaign advertising strategies. Expect to see this embraced as the cycle starts up again.
Auto Insurers Getting to Know Their Drivers
Auto insurers are constantly striving to learn more about their customers. Data analytics, telematics, and the connected car can offer an insurer a view of a driver’s habits, behaviors, and tendencies like never before. Many insurers already have turned to telematics to collect information about driving behavior. Progressive Insurance, for example, reports that 60 percent of its customers are either taking up telematics or are interested in the idea. With more connected cars taking the road in the coming year, data pulled from telematics can be fed into analytics engines in real time so that insurers can better assess risk and reward good driving behavior with pricing incentives, as opposed to simply punishing drivers after they have had an accident or received a traffic ticket.
Local Government Trickle Down
Within the government sector, big data has been embraced for some time now at the highest levels, as evidenced by the federal government’s $200 million investment in 2012. As we move into 2015, look for similar big data strategies to trickle down to the state and even local government levels. Whether to help resource-constrained law enforcement personnel better anticipate and respond to crime, improve management of traffic to prevent backups and optimize public transportation scheduling, or save valuable tax dollars from fraudsters, state and local governments will make better use of the vast amounts of collectible data in 2015 to better serve their communities.
Leveraging Wearable Data
With the holiday shopping season in full swing, wearable technology for fitness is all the rage – think FitBit or Apple’s Health App. Connected watches, wristbands, and sensor socks can collect data related to a user’s physical activity over a long period time. Until now, the data tracked by these wearable devices has been the domain of that individual user. In 2015, look for healthcare, insurance providers, and even employers to capitalize on opportunities to access that data and put it to work. With data in hand, healthcare insurers can offer incentives and discounts for achieving a healthier lifestyle, for example. Employers can nudge their employees to achieve fitness goals and track progress, potentially cutting down on office sickness and absenteeism. The wearable technology market to date enables the collection of valuable data. In 2015, expect companies to begin leveraging that data in meaningful ways.
Saurabh Sharma is founder and CEO of Indus Insights, a leading big data consulting firm specializing in helping organizations use analytical and statistical techniques to improve their performance.
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