Big Data

Big Data…the Next Big Thing…or the Next Big Security Concern?

Two years ago, McKinsey & Company published an article on Big Data, calling it "The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity." I recently ran across the article and it struck me that in many ways it was spot on. Frankly, analyzing large data sets isn't a new concept...it just has a title now...Big Data. And now that it does, as I mentioned in my last Big Data post, I can't stop thinking about what it is and how it can be better used in the world of sourcing, outsourcing and supply chain. One of the things that really captured my attention in the McKinsey article was their reference to the issues that need to be addressed regarding Big Data, including privacy and security. Imagine the collective power of the information consumers give to various sources--banks, loyalty programs, online retailers, healthcare providers--most of the time, the information you provide in one place isn't meant to be accessed by another. We expect our information to be kept private and confidential. Disclosing personal data is a slippery slope. As Jeff Bertolucci recently said in InformationWeek, "...companies implementing big data strategies might consider this informal motto: 'Don't be sneaky.'" Be honest with how you plan to use the data you collect and don't share it without prior knowledge, unless you are ready for the mistrust that will follow. Ideally, Big Data should result in something that benefits both the company collecting the information and the consumer or organization providing it. Why else would people be willing to give freely of private information?

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG

Big Data (Brother) is Watching...

I have to admit, when I think about the power of Big Data, it is a little bit creepy. I mean think about it...it's a little like being stalked...and at times, by ourselves. I go to a website like Overstock.com and look at kitchen chairs. The next time I am on my personal email, an ad for those very chairs pops up. From a marketing perspective, it’s called “retargeting.” The chance of my purchasing those chairs increases when that same ad pops up again and again, following me from website to website. From a business perspective, it’s called Big Data. The company...in this case Overstock...can take the information that they’ve gathered on me, a consumer who is interested in purchasing chairs for my kitchen, and use it predictively.

By definition, Big Data refers to three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. But it’s what you do with all the data you have (volume), the speed at which you can access it (velocity) and the types of sources you pull it from (variety) that provides the real insight. One of the best known uses of Big Data analytics is Amazon...and they’ve been using it for years to suggest items you might want to purchase/read/etc., based on your search terms coupled with other people who viewed/purchased the same items. Sometimes I select an item just to find those that are similar. But Amazon goes one step further too and sends relevant emails down the road, just when you’ve nearly forgotten about that item. Talk about a good use of predictive analysis.

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG

Big Data

Big Data is a major topic right now. Let me give a little analogy here. Have you been to a chain store lately and used the same credit card you have used before at pretty much the same store? Have you noticed that the coupons that spit out with your receipt are becoming more and more relevant to your actual purchases? They assigned you a tracking ID, tracked your purchases, looked at other things relevant to you at that moment...like seasons, your wedding registry, your recent home renovations...and connected the dots to try and sell you wedding favors and landscaping lights and a hat for the upcoming Spring.

That's Big Data. The corporation you buy from has started tracking your regular purchases and figured out how to predict your spend. The same thing is happening in Sourcing as well, actually it has already been happening. As we automate more and more of the sourcing processes and procurement operations and we track consumables from the supply chain to the shelf to the consumers pocket, we learn a lot more about habits, trends, and purchasing power. We can therefore more easily address risk (inventory levels, supply interruptions), leverage pricing (issue discounts, take rebates) and innovate and collaborate. Of course, Big Data requires infrastructure, which is why companies are moving towards the cloud. Imagine all of those transactions being tracked that data warehouse just gets bigger and bigger and more and more traffic comes in as we've got to figure out how to mitigate that risk and have someone else carry the burden of addressing the risk and costs of it.

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

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