As usual, the reality of the digital age is outpacing fiction. As noted in a recent edition of The Economist, last year people stored enough data to fill 60,000 Libraries of Congress. The world’s 4 billion mobile-phone users (12% of whom own smartphones) have turned themselves into data-streams. YouTube claims to receive 24 hours of video every minute. Manufacturers have embedded 30m sensors into their products, converting mute bits of metal into data-generating nodes in the internet of things. The number of smartphones is increasing by 20% a year and the number of sensors by 30%.
Of course, not all of this data is in a neat and tidy database, easily accessible to those it could serve the best. Rather, we find vast repositories of unstructured content – video, white papers, podcasts, powerpoints, and many other types. Those unstructured content types are those will use as context to explain how McKinsey’s five
The McKinsey Global Institute identified five areas to focus on in order your firm takes advantage of this “Big Data”
Make big data more accessible in a timely manner. For structured content, this can be as easy as providing reporting tools and permissions for database access. The world of unstructured content is much more problematic. Layers of role- and authority-based permissions need to be set; everything from being able to see the content through open access to replace or modify.
Use data and experimentation to expose variability and improve performance. Understanding your content usage patterns can provide insight into the need for more (or sometimes less) of a given content type. If customers are downloading white papers from your site 99% of the time, perhaps more focus and investment should go towards that effort.
Segment populations to customize actions. Big data allow organizations to create ever-narrower segments and tailor the delivery and the actual content precisely to meet customer needs.
Support human decision-making with automated algorithms. Sophisticated content analytics can deliver the right information to the right person at the right time, creating new value that might otherwise remain hidden.
Innovate new business models, products, and services. The emergence of real-time location data has created a new set of location-based mobile services from navigation to people tracking, allowing for predictive content delivery and organization.
By thinking through the ramifications of big databases, and their corollary in the unstructured content world, companies can be better prepared to create competitive advantage and innovate in new and differentiated ways.