Big Data: Value and Concerns

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Recently, I was asked to moderate a panel on big data and my panel members were Sandy Perlman, CMO for, Adam Eveline, VP Customer Insights & Portfolio Analytics for PC Financial, and Shelagh Stoneham, SVP/General Manager Brands & Marketing for Rogers Communications.

Big Data certainly garners a lot of discussion and the panel weighed in on both the value and the concerns related to it. They all agreed that organizations are increasingly leveraging data to inform decisions and strategy as well as improve customer service.

However, they added that organizations need to strike a balance between using data to better serve customers without becoming creepy or “big brotherish” and risk being perceived as having overstepped the bounds of customer privacy.

According to the panel, customers want organizations to leverage data to anticipate their needs and deliver relevance when they want it while still striking that balance between not being too “big brotherish” and delivering value.

They make it sound so easy but it does present some challenges. Not everyone feels the same way about privacy or the trade-off between sharing certain pieces of data about oneself in exchange for more relevant or targeted value.

User Push Back?

In the age of social media, friction-less sharing, and the continuing saga of Facebook and targeted ads, will users push back or increasingly accept that, in order to have their needs anticipated and receive relevant value, there could be a price to pay in terms of privacy.

Perhaps those that are gathering the data might help the situation by being more transparent about what data is being gathered, how it is being used, and ultimately what it will mean to users. That is not to suggest that such efforts are not already happening but to say that more effort along those lines could only help matters.

While there is an opportunity for relevant value for users, the big data being accumulated also provides value for a number of key business areas within the organizations gathering the data. The panel spoke about the fact that no one C-level person should own the data when it provided valuable insights to a number of different stakeholders.

The panel also went on to say that big data was also driving resourcing requirements for business intelligence and analysis now or in the very near future. This was of keen interest to the host of the event who specializes in recruitment in the business intelligence and analytics space.

I know that Big Data is a big topic but what is your take? Is the cost of relevant value, improved customer service, or targeted needs being met reasonable or too high in terms of the data that must be shared to achieve those things?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

0 thoughts on “Big Data: Value and Concerns

  1. JoeCardillo says:

    Two thoughts:
    One is that data transparency is still in its infancy and companies are not doing a good job of managing the process. I really like Maria Pallante’s thoughts on copyright as a window into understanding how we should think about data. 
    In her recent statement to Congress (she is the Register of Copyrights for the US) she pointed out that the current laws are barely decipherable at a basic level, saying “if one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.”  [full statement here:
    I think companies with a digital presence are facing the same problem, just because audiences/consumers agree to a TOC doesn’t absolve companies of the need to make the actual provisions and effects clear. 
    This leads to my second thought (almost done I promise!) which is the “we can and/or should know everything” mentality, which is troubling on many levels. One level is that most companies aren’t doing a good job of segregating or stratifying data (cursory health data that isn’t even gathered at a doctor’s office, for example, can be used by insurance companies to discriminate against patients or potential patients….and the law isn’t yet catching up). Another level is that without context, most data is useless. Big data is in that place right now where it kind of means everything and nothing at the same time for this very reason.

    • hessiej says:

      JoeCardillo Hey Joe, great thoughts. My take on this is very much the same when opt-in and proper disclosure were introduced in the nexus of email/internet marketing. This next phase is is much more complicated because contact information is the “minimum” amount of information that’s being collected at the user level.
      You’re absolutely right that a user agreeing to TOS does NOT absolve a company from disclosing use of data.  Context needs to be defined in order to provide a better picture of the customer situation; but we have to ask ourselves, “how much of that data is needed to inform this process?”. While data aggregators pool the information and make them available to technology providers (that analyze and deliver data results) there is onus on both the platforms providing the information AND the purveyors of the data results to extract what is ONLY relevant to the marketer or advertiser. Therein lies the rub.
      As a marketer, I’d love as much information as I could get to give me MORE context. And I’m willing to pay for that information. However, where we take privacy into consideration, the evolving regulations may stipulate a threshold that limits access. 
      I dont’ have the answer to this. I’m interested to see how this issue evolves in the coming months.

      • JoeCardillo says:

        hessiej JoeCardillo Same here, and I like your point….it kind of reminds me of how Facebook on the past gave access to developers that included being able to mine private messages, when they hadn’t even asked for it.
         I’m still sifting through the .com disclosures from FTC last month, but it doesn’t seem to say much about what companies should disclose so much as how they should provide disclosure.

  2. ajenkins says:

    joecardillo Thx for sharing.

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