Big data needs a human touch
Turning data into insight calls for a balance of analytics and a human touch. In business, the full potential of big data can only be unlocked when bridged with intuition.
One regular comment I’ve come across in my Networked Society engagements with the industry is that as we’re getting more connected, we’re generating more and more data each day, businesses are collecting it, and yet little is being turned into insight. I couldn’t agree more.
In our day-to-day working lives, the human resource department exemplifies this fact. A recent Deloitte study shows that while organizations globally invest billions in HR software, less than 4 percent can perform predictive analysis today. The good news is businesses want to be more analytically-driven, equipping themselves with big data capabilities and analytics teams.
The information that HR captures about what we do, who we are, and how we behave – such as experience, training, compensation, performance ratings and even where we live and where we went to school – can be turned into valuable business-decision tools. These tools make management tasks, such as predicting sales performance, understanding client defection, and retaining high performers, much easier.
But as companies embrace big data and analytics, we mustn’t ignore the role of human intuition. In business, intuition plays an important role from the early stages of analytical strategy as the choice of target domains to analyze are often based on the intuition, or gut feelings of executives. It then continues to play a vital role throughout the process. With expert judgment, big data analysts can help management reframe questions or test their underlying hypotheses.
As Mike Flowers, chief analytics officer for New York City under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, puts it: “Intuition versus analytics is not a binary choice.” Accenture found that companies that combine human expertise with rigorous data enjoy higher ROIs on their analytics investments.
As we march toward the Networked Society, one challenge for executives and data analysts is to know when, where and how to incorporate expert intuition into the number crunching to reach superior decision-making results. This will require both quantitative tactics and ‘in the field’ experience. Businesses that strike the right balance between the two are poised to have the upper hand in a big data world.