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A few years ago, big data was a brand new frontier for businesses, and few could afford to leverage the technology on a large scale. Today, it’s much more accessible for companies of all sizes, and the field of big data has begun to mature.

New innovations, like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are emerging to once again set executives abuzz with visions of competitive excellence.

Savvy business leaders can use these new innovations to their competitive advantage if they stay on the cutting edge of what big data can do. Want to innovate with big data and join these forward-thinking trailblazers? Here are the 4 essentials you’ll need to succeed.

Essential #1: Talent Comes First

You can have the best technology in the world, but technology doesn’t work without the people who know how to bring out the best in it. Big data talent can be challenging to find, since the field is relatively new and not everyone who professes to be a big data specialist has the in-depth knowledge, curiosity, and willingness to take risks needed to truly innovate in this space. However, it’s essential that you make every effort to find talent that is truly a fit for your organization and has the right mindset about big data.

When looking for big data talent, you’ll want to seek out those who not only have the technical training for collecting and analyzing data, but the ability to translate those technical skills into tangible, real-world outcomes. The ability to crunch numbers isn’t enough. Your big data specialists need to be able to spot opportunities to use data and leverage technology to help move your business forward.

Essential #2: Act on New Data Now

Being able to pivot quickly is essential in today’s fast-paced business environment. While it’s still important to use big data for studying historical data and making major strategy decisions, “fast data” is quickly becoming an essential as well.

A good example of using new data effectively is how banks automate fraud detection. When there is activity on a card that is out of sync with the user’s area or general usage habits, it flags the transaction. Using AI and machine learning to automate this process means that fraud is caught more quickly and consumers are alerted almost immediately. New data can also guide short-term strategy or help serve customers by picking up on trends right away and tweaking search results that are directly applicable to what the user is looking for.

Fast data is an area where companies need to excel and innovate in order to stay relevant. The modern consumer is used to the idea of personalized experiences based on data, and they’re expecting a lot more from the businesses they work with.

Essential #3: Understand Your Environment

We often think about how big data can be used to serve and keep customers. But new innovations make big data applicable for improving internal processes, making systems more efficient, and understanding your environment within the marketplace.

One way that big data can help businesses stay aware and well-informed is through tax risk assessment. Taxes are a huge concern for companies of all sizes, especially with new tax laws in effect. The IRS uses big data to make audit selections, and companies can use that data to understand their risk of being audited. Since taxes for businesses are so complex, being aware of all the factors affecting the final tax bill is a huge advantage.

Essential #4: Optimize Customer Service

Every business needs to focus on bringing in new customers. That’s the only way to grow. Big data innovations can be leveraged for better marketing, but they should also be used to serve current customers and optimize customer service. After all, the only thing as important as acquiring new business is keeping existing business.

What is it that your customers like most about your company? Well, everyone has different priorities. That’s where big data innovation can come in. Personalization is quickly becoming an important aspect of customer service—and it’s something that automation with AI and big data can help with. Thinking about how to offer unique value and leverage big data to enhance the customer service experience will serve companies well in any industry.

The Demand for Data Scientists

Big data is a new and growing field. Because of that, the talent shortage may determine how much innovation we see in the field over the next few years. In order for businesses to truly innovate with big data, they need the right talent, the right attitude, and the right priorities. With that magic combination, companies can gain a true competitive edge.

By Ryan Ayers

About the author

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.