The stories are hidden in your business data

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Global economies typically were (and to a degree still are) driven and measured by the value of tangible commodities such as gold and oil. However, with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, a new commodity, although intangible, has forever changed the world of business – that being something known as ‘Big Data’. Characterised by the 5 V’s (velocity, volume, value, variety and veracity), big data by definition is a collection of any information, including insights which can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured.

Whether big or small, every business possesses a database, custom built around their product offering, services, and business model. For smaller businesses, it is important to know that it is not the amount of data that is important; but rather, what companies do with the available data.

The importance of big data is that it can be analysed and scrutinized to a point where you gain valuable and profitable insights into business patterns that can lead to better decisions and business strategies. 

It is however vital that businesses assess and regulate the variety of data sources available. Popular sources would include those of business transactions, social media, and other digital platforms (e.g.; websites).

Like all things tangible, data can too be packaged and stored. With access to the internet, data pours into businesses at the speed of light and needs to be stored and assessed appropriately. Data can be in numerical databases to bases storing text messages, emails, videos, audios, stock moving data, or financial transactions. Structure data such as the above is generally stored in data warehouses whereas unstructured data will continue to float in data lakes until more refine searches and categorization takes place.

So why am I raving about this source of information?

By analyzing your data, you can find answers to several unsolved or unexplained issue within your current business model. Matters pertaining to cost savings, where too much time is spent on specific activities, new business development or understanding the market in which you trade; could all be ascertained in the finest detail. More so, it enables you to determine reasons for failures, tracking your customers’ consumer behaviour, and detect risky operations by employee. In essence, a 21st century approach to conducting a SWOT analysis.

Big data vs. new legislation

As of July 1st, 2021 the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act was enacted. This is South Africa’s equivalent of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It sets some conditions for responsible parties to lawfully process the personal information of data subjects (both natural and juristic persons).

The POPI Act indicates that in order to reap the benefits of Big Data, ”the responsible party must identify all reasonably foreseeable internal and external risks, establish and maintain appropriate safeguards against the risks identified, regularly verify that the safeguards are effectively implemented and continually updated in response to new risks”.

Best practice in light of the new act includes some of the following:

  • Using appropriately secure and reliable infrastructure
  • Anonymising or de- identifying personal data
  • Applying filtering, cleansing, pruning, conforming, matching, joining, and diagnosing at the earliest touch points possible
  • Avoiding incomplete information, poor decisions and bias
  • Tracing data elements back to the source
  • Maintaining adequate, relevant, useful and current big data related policies, processes, procedures and supporting structures
  • Maintaining privacy notices with details about all intended uses, an individual’s access rights and ways to address incorrect data
  • Providing easy data subject access to review and correct information that has been collected about them
  • Performing appropriate data destruction within a comprehensive data management policy, clearly defined disposal ownership and accountability
  • Providing continuous education and training about big data policies, processes and procedures.

These are all important points to consider when handling the data at your disposal in your organization. Furthermore, communicating the importance of data storage and analysis thereof to the workforce and how the data strategy links up to the business’s overall strategy will enable better results both short- and long-term.

Know your data sources

Once you know what your data sources entail, you can ensure that data from specific sources will be available to each department for a competitive advantage. 

 

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