Stop #1 in the Big Data Archipelago journey: the Analytics Isle


“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns.  That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.”
- Donald Rumsfeld

Welcome to the Analytics Isle—the #1 hot spot destination for marketers in the Big Data Archipelago! It’s not hard to understand why this island is so popular given its unlimited data opportunities for exploration, reporting, advanced analytics and data visualization. With all the data that’s available these days—from traditional data (CRM, contact center, sales) to big data (email, social, mobile)—some marketers are having a heyday carving out new paths and adventures to pursue, while others are simply stuck in the moat.

Big Data Archipelago - Analytics Isle

Figure 1. The Analytics Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

For years, marketers have used analytics with their traditional data to gain valuable insight into their company and customers. In other words, with analytics, they have come to the data with their business questions in hand to answer, what we will call, the known unknowns. They know what they don’t know or want to know, and they use analytical data to fill in the blanks. It’s like discovering gold in a hidden treasure chest of data.

Discovering the known unknowns with analytics has kept companies very busy for years and will continue to do so in the years to come. Now let’s shift our focus from what is happening with traditional data and analytics and explore what could be happening with big data.

A Big Data Best Practice for Analytics

Big data blows the analytical door wide open to new possibilities. Not only can we gain insight by answering the known unknowns, we can now make an impact by discovering the unknown unknowns. What does this mean?

Simply stated, with big data technologies, we can now leverage larger volumes and more types of data to discover the questions we hadn't even considered or even knew to ask before. It’s not just about finding the answers anymore; it’s about discovering those questions that could impact our business for good. We find that the gold, or rather, the insight, in our treasure chests of data includes both the questions and the answers we need to address in order to make that desired impact in our organizations and communities.

A Quick Example:

Amazon is a data hoarder; they have kept all the data they've generated and collected since they were founded in 1994. If you will recall, Amazon was the first retailer to come up with product recommendations. How did they do it? Simply, by using predictive analytics, and as a result, they set a new retail standard for online shopping. Today, we've come to expect product recommendations whenever we shop anywhere online.

Now let’s fast forward to the near future: Amazon is now talking about what I’m calling “predictive shipping.” Amazon is so confident that you’ll buy a certain product that they will ship it to you before you’ve even clicked on the ‘add to cart’ (or 1-click) button. They’re banking on the cost of getting it wrong (and having lots of customer returns) being negligible as compared to the revenue generated by getting it right. This is equally amazing and creepy. And with the introduction of their new Fire Phone, they now have access to even more data - do you think they'll analyze it? You can count on it.

Again, how is Amazon able to do this? Through analyzing all the data (traditional and big) they've been hoarding for the last 20 years. Did they even know to ask the “predictive shipping” question back then? My bet is: No way! With analytics, Amazon has not only been able to address their known unknowns, they've also been able to use both traditional and big data to discover their unknown unknowns. And pursue them.

Key Takeaways for Marketers Visiting the Analytics Isle

  • Don’t get stuck in the moat. It’s filled with crocodiles.
  • Spend extra time in the Exploration territory. Discover those questions.
  • Be a part of the big data what could be discussion with colleagues.
  • Don’t feed the Big Data Narwhal on the North Shore of the island.
  • Analyze traditional and big data together for greater insight and impact.

This is the 1st post in a 10-post series, “A marketer’s journey through the Big Data Archipelago.” This series explores 10 key best practices for big data and why marketers should care. Our next stop is the Processing Isle, where we’ll talk about taking advantage of big data technologies.


About Author

Tamara Dull

Director of Emerging Technologies

I’m the Director of Emerging Technologies on the SAS Best Practices team, a thought leadership organization at SAS. While hot topics like smart homes and self-driving cars keep me giddy, my current focus is on the Internet of Things, blockchain, big data and privacy – the hype, the reality and the journey. I jumped on the technology fast track 30 years ago, starting with Digital Equipment Corporation. Yes, this was before the internet was born and the sci-fi of yesterday became the reality of today.

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