From your smartphone, to your tablet, to that laptop or PC on your desk—data is pervasive and plentiful. And the things it can do for you are amazing. It can propel your business, improve your life and help people.
Today, 80 percent of data comes from previously untapped, unstructured information from the web such as imagery, social media channels, news feeds, emails, journals, blogs, images, sounds and videos. Sometimes called “dark data,” unstructured data holds the important insights needed for faster, more informed decisions. So, what’s the other 20 percent? It’s traditional, structured data living in data warehouses, and it’s important, too. You can’t live without structure.
Let’s explore some of the ways data is ever present and how it can be used to make a difference, not just in our professional lives, but in our personal lives as well. We’ll also touch on ways to harness this data with tools (such as IBM Watson Analytics).
Data-driving your business
There are many ways data drives value in a business setting. Understanding how to use it can help you gain a leg up on your competitors.
First, there’s data you recognize
Sales data helps you understand what your customers bought and when. You can then make more accurate forecasts of future sales activity. CRM, website, marketing and social media data analytics also reveal a lot. Age groups, gender, average income, family size and internet usage enable more strategic decisions based on who you’re marketing to.
Then, there’s what you don’t think of
Your website tracks language, search terms and referring sites, as well who is posing questions, making purchases or reviewing your products—all data you can use to communicate better with customers and consumers. Likewise, engagement and interactions on social media provide considerable insights on emerging trends and markets and customer brand loyalty. Knowing why your customers feel the way they do about your product, service or company can help you better target them with strategic campaigns and or better service them. You’re also part of the conversations your customers are having online and can better identify with them.
Put it all together for business success
With this deeper understanding of customers brought to you by data, you can tailor messages, offers and campaigns with greater success. By making the right information available at the right time in the right way, customer experience and engagement is enhanced, which drives loyalty and revenue growth.
Now you’re running your business more smoothly and improving productivity because you’re identifying those policies, products, services and other offerings where your business isn’t delivering the best possible results. You’re also discovering patterns of success that you can apply more often to other areas. And you know just when an overhaul can improve your product lines, services or policies. In fact, you’ve set thresholds that issue notifications when customers take specific actions—and you can respond accordingly. Costs go down and resources are used more wisely.
Meeting personal goals… and even the right person
You’ve got your to-do list for life: great job that pays well, good health and that special someone to walk beside in life. What you might not know is that data is also right by your side as you work toward these goals.
Now accepting applications
Every time you explore career opportunities, you generate data. Human resources departments and recruiters rely on education records, work experience, location and other demographics to fit the right candidate with the right position. You already know that Glassdoor, Monster, LinkedIn and others are go-to resources for job seekers. However, the advantage currently goes to the recruiters who match resumes and skills with job descriptions.
In the not-so-distant future, however, this won’t be the case. You’ll be inputting your own data, including skills and experience of course, but intangible “soft skills” that employers crave. Even now, you are more in control of your career path than people used to be, so think of how great it will be to match both professional and personal traits. This makes it more likely that you will find a good fit with your employer and derive more job satisfaction.
A better you
Even if you don’t realize it, you are probably using a fitness tracker. Whether you’ve gone out and actively purchased one or your smartphone has built-in monitoring, the steps you take, the flights of stairs you climb and other activities are being tracked. The data gathered through all of this allows you to make better decisions to improve your health.
For example, simply knowing how much activity is needed each day to achieve a fitness target makes you feel better and motivates you to reach your goals. Some wearable devices even track your movements while sleeping so you can better monitor your sleep cycles. And even better, these fitness trackers sync with your smartphone or your smartphone monitor syncs with your fitness apps so you can better count calories or adjust activity levels until you’ve reached your fitness goal or dream weight.
All you need is… data?
The human heart: it’s almost the antithesis of data, right? Passion and emotion are the name of the dating game. Or are they? Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat monitor your actions and use data to connect you with family, friends and others who have common interests. Dating platforms such as eHarmony, Tinder and Match.com take information from you and a host of others and run algorithms against it. The next thing you know, you have a list of potential partners based on gender, age, education and hobbies—all with the ultimate goal to improve their personal lives. Many people have met their matches online and they have data to thank for that. You could be next.
Making the world a better place
From improving healthcare to identifying new insights to being entertained, data also helps make the world a better place for everyone.
Data making house calls
Data is changing the ways healthcare is handled and medical treatment is approached. Medical professionals use data collected from multiple patients to identify red flags that are often associated with certain conditions to develop more effective treatments. Having the right data at the right time, and knowing how to use it, not only improves the quality of life, but also saves it.
Stopping the spread of diseases
Disease outbreaks impact the entire globe, and it’s not just a human health crisis: Epidemics carry a hefty price tag as well. West African countries have invested $32.6 billion to fight the spread of the Ebola virus. The World Bank has also committed $400 million to the cause. But now, data is joining the fight. By being able to track population movements, organizations can identify where treatment centers should be positioned or where travel restrictions should be implemented, preventing epidemics before they even start.
Touching every aspect of your life
Data is everywhere you look and in everything you do, and companies need analytics solutions that can help them keep pace. Even after all the data is collected, organizations (and people) still need to make sense of it all. Fortunately, new tools and capabilities can help unearth insights buried in data that can facilitate the development of innovative products and services. By accelerating the ability to turn data into insights that are actionable, you can gain a huge advantage on a professional and personal level.
Take advantage of your data
Self-service analytics tools, such as Watson Analytics, use cognitive computing to analyze all forms of data and reveal insights, patterns and relationships previously hidden. You can quickly query vast amounts of traditional and dark data, make more informed decisions and take faster action. And that’s just the beginning. Before long, you’ll be uncovering new opportunities to build stronger relationships with customers, employees, business partners and yourself.
What does it all mean?
Data is the most plentiful natural resource of the 21st century. It runs businesses, touches lives and has the power to change the world. Future success will be found when you look beyond your computer, smartphone and tablet and take into account the vast amount of data around you. What’s your plan for your data?
Put your data to work today
Register for the free edition of Watson Analytics and see how it can put data to work for you.
Want to learn more?
Download the 23 Reasons to Get Excited About Data smartpaper here.