Driving Value with Big Data

Organizations are relying more and more on big data, but what does it mean to be good at this? What are the best practices when it comes to driving value?

For answers, we looked at comScore, which has been amassing, analyzing, and selling data for fourteen years. To be sustainable, its data not only has to be useful, but actually used by paying customers, or it would have gone out of business long ago. We can learn a lot from comScore by deconstructing its secret sauce, which has three main ingredients:

The Platform

The first ingredient is a cost-efficient, scalable data platform. The key word here is: platform. It’s not just about putting data together to enable a specific process or decision. Rather, the platform must be able to grow and change over time, as data delivery might look very different in five years. It can be off-the-shelf rather than proprietary, because the platform in and of itself isn’t the thing that delivers value. However, it provides the foundation for the process.

The People

The second component is having an analytics-savvy workforce. Many companies think they can simply hire a few data scientists, and all of a sudden they will become good at delivering value through data. However, it takes more than a handful of individuals. You see this at comScore, where everyone across the organization participates in delivering value from data. That extends from the tech people all the way to the business-focused managers. Each group has different skills, but they overlap enough so that they can all communicate.

Actionable Insights

The final ingredient—and perhaps the most important—is actionable insights. At the end of the day, you add no value if no one is using your data. This is challenging because it’s hard enough to get people inside your organization to use data, but to engage others outside your organizational boundary is extremely difficult. The key for comScore is being close enough to its customers to understand their needs and ensure it is creating the right products to meet those needs.

Selling Data?

These are important lessons for any company trying to deliver value from their data initiatives, but they also apply to companies looking to enter the data-selling market. This is an interesting trend, as more companies think about how to profit from the data they collect and analyze. However, you don’t just enter the data game. You need to understand what makes a data analytics company like comScore viable and be able to emulate those capabilities. Do you know how data is adding value to your organization today? How are your employees using it? What decisions are made based on it?

Barbara Wixom is a principal research scientist at MIT CISR. You can read the full research briefing on comScore with free registration on the MIT CISR website.