So far, so good on the big data front.

A recent Accenture study of 1,000 executives finds 82 percent say that big data “provides a significant source of value for their companies.”

What kind of value might that be? Benefits cited include finding new sources of revenue (56 percent), new product and service development (50 percent), winning and keeping customers (47 percent), and enhancing the customer experience (51 percent).

The challenge is finding the skilled people who know how to turn big data into insights for the business. This is easier said than done. There’s a growing perception that knowledge about new revenue sources can be generated at the touch of a button. That software will deliver the insights needed to win and keep customers.

It’s not that easy, no matter how sophisticated the analysis software being used. What is needed is skills and critical thinking skills to understand the context and significant of data. There’s no such thing as an insurance company that be run entirely by machines, to decide that the time is right to move a product offering online, or to start insuring RVs. The data can provide clues, but it takes human decision-makers to understand and determine how the information might relate to the business.

Big data technology is no different than any other technology, and the same misconceptions are still around. That is, businesses expect to buy strategic expertise – spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on some shiny new technology package, drop in into the organization, and expect great insight and profitability. Only enlightened and innovative management can achieve that, employing technology as a tool.

To that end, Accenture makes recommendation to apply forward-looking management to succeed with big data:

Focus on building skills. “In addition to staffing up when possible, build skills of existing employees with training and development and tap outside expertise,” Accenture says.

Explore the entire big data ecosystem. “Explore all data available and be prepared to explore a broad range of technology options when developing a big data strategy. With a focus toward business actions and outcomes that can be differentiating in the market.”

Start small then grow. “Focus resources around proving value quickly in one area of the business first via a pilot program or proof of concept. Build internal consensus and then grow big data programs organically.”

Be nimble. “Stay flexible, adapt and learn as technologies evolve and new opportunities can be explored.”

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