Utilizing Big Data In Market Intelligence Requires Right Mindset, Says IBM’s Market Insights Manager

October 9, 2014. In September this year, IBM announced IBM Watson Analytics, a cloud-based analytics service based on the Watson cognitive computing platform. IBM Watson Analytics aims to simplify sophisticated big data analysis for the average business user. Seda Tokcan Brown, Manager, Market Insights at IBM says that as a market and competitive intelligence professional within IBM, she is also looking forward to leverage this in her daily work. We ask Seda about her views about the impact of big data on her work.

1. What major changes have you seen in intelligence over the last two years?

“Every company in every industry is under pressure to maintain sustainable growth, to stay ahead of its competitors, and to remain relevant to its customers. In the past, finding real insight was a difficult task. Many decision makers had to rely on intuition, personal knowledge and experience. Today, the internet and social media have greatly enhanced customer power and have made data the new natural resource which companies need to harvest at a much faster speed, sometimes even in real time.

The good news is that the availability of that data enables today’s decision makers to act based on facts and insights, to predict the future with more certainty and to be better prepared. In order to make decisions faster and to act at speed and scale, companies are relying much more on their market and competitive intelligence organizations.

The importance of our skills and capabilities as market and competitive professionals is amplified by the transformation driven by digital age. Therefore, our organizations are becoming very close to the business and the decision making process and are tasked with providing more pro-active, agile, deeper, and strategic insights.

Our profession now needs to put the intelligence into context, create a point of view that is relevant, actionable and well tested, prepared, and rehearsed and communicate to the decision makers convincing and timely manner. We are now held accountable from where to move our businesses tomorrow. If marketing organizations are becoming analytics-driven, market intelligence organizations are the engine of it all.”

2. How is the impact of big data on the work of market and competitive intelligence professionals?

“Big data impacts every industry, every company and every profession. It opens new possibilities, new business models and new way of operating. From a marketing point of view, big data is marketing heaven. It enables the companies to connect with its customers at a personal level in context, and also create strong, immersing, and delightful brand experiences. We need to understand the data, process it, analyze it and gain insights from it. Companies can make use of it from research and development all the way through marketing and sales. The challenge of course remains coping with volume, variety, velocity and veracity of the data. (See IBM infographic.)

However, turning a blind eye to all this will lead to obsoleteness. We need to embrace technology and the digital channels and we also need to have a culture that is data and analytics driven to improve the impact of our profession. We need to continuously invest in skills development in these areas and we need to not shy away from experimenting with new technologies and new ways of finding and delivering insights”

3. What skills are more important for an intelligence practitioner: the soft skills that are related to communication, presentation, engagement, or the intelligence skills such as research, analysis, etc. that are needed in a big data world?

“I personally think both of them are very important. One can’t succeed without the other. They are very complementary to each other. Others may argue, soft skills are like art and intelligence skills are like science and science can be learned. Also, we need to recognize the fact that the demand for data and analytics skilled resources is high and the supply does not match the demand by far.

As a leader, thinking of organizational development and building eminence in our market and competitive intelligence organizations, it is important to recognize the value of both soft skills and technical skills. We can’t expect fish to climb a tree and we can’t expect cats to swim under water.

We need to ensure the way we acquire and develop talent ensures we hire people with a balanced view based on organizational goals, responsibilities and current talent. We need to recognize we see the importance of subject matter experts. We need to ensure we have people with the right attitude, high potential and capacity to learn.”

4. How do IBM’s solutions help companies manage big data?

“When we think about big data/analytics and technology blocks that are required, we need to think about technologies that will help support search, development, governance and analytics services for all data types – from transaction and application data to machine and sensor data to social, image and geospatial data, and more.

IBM has been helping organizations, small and large, to make sense of all the data and find new insights, whether that be gaining industry-leading database performance across multiple workloads, or bringing the power of Apache Hadoop to the enterprise with application accelerators, analytics, and visualization. We also help companies efficiently deliver real-time analytic through stream computing, by processing constantly changing data in motion and enabling descriptive and predictive analytics to support real-time decisions.

Additionally, we aim to bring and build confidence in big data through information integration and governance, which brings the ability to integrate, understand, manage and govern data appropriately across its lifecycle.

IBM is now also unique in having developed an enterprise class big data and analytics platform ““ Watson Foundations – that allows you to address the full spectrum of big data business challenges. Information management is key to that platform helping organizations discover fresh insights, operate in a timely fashion and establish trust to act with confidence. Recently announced, Watson Analytics is also unique and a powerful predictive and visual analytics tool for both experts statisticians and average users.”

5. What advice do you have for market and competitive intelligence professionals on how to make the best use of tools for big data analysis?

“Big Data is not about just buying a piece of large analytics software, it is about having the mind-set, the process, the management system, and the people with talent and skills to effectively execute on that promise.

To start with, we need to be familiar with our data, what it has, what it shows, what the limitations are. Once we know that, we can start asking questions – the right questions – the questions that our data can answer and questions that matter to the business. We can then use the tools to identify trends, see patterns, seek reasoning and deeper understanding.

We need to stay curious, we need to experiment and learn from best practices. We also need to have excellent communication skills to be able to articulate what we find and what it means to the business.”

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