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Breaking the Habit: Is Big Data Addiction Good for Business?

Imagine a scenario for a moment, if you will. You’re walking into your new doctor’s office for the first time for a routine checkup. At the end of the 20-minute session, your doctor asks you “Is there something else you want to tell me?”

Mystified, you respond, “Uh, like what?”

The iciness of her glare terrifies you. “Well, maybe about that two-pack-a-day cigarette habit of yours.”

What? How did she know?

And there’s one of the rubs with Big Data. Through Big Data, the medical office may be aware of your twice-weekly visits to the local cigarette outlet, or have access to the camera footage outside your work where you spend several breaks a day puffing away with your colleague. Your seemingly secret data lives somewhere, waiting to be unearthed. And where there’s a will, there’s a way – the medical office could have acquired the purchase data from a broker, along with other information that could be used to develop a profile of you that, for better or worse, influences everything from treatment regimens to which doctor you end up seeing.

We see the many shades of Big Data every day.  From untargeted to highly desired to downright Big Brother-ish and creepy.

For example, there is nothing surprising about the run-of-the-mill local gym membership e-mail you receive on January 1, offering no sign-up fee and a free first month. And you might even welcome an offer for a gym that is close to your home or work. But it starts to get creepy when the gym “wants you to come back,” and gives you five reasons why it’s better than the gym you just tried and checked into on Facebook.

It’s tempting for businesses to try to rapidly implement Big Data strategies, only to have them fall short or even backfire. And often the culprit is not really having a game plan for how to use the data when you get it – or even determine if you’re looking at the right data. Starting with a specific business problem in mind is a critical first step to making smarter decisions every step of the way. Just remember the Big Brother factor before you alienate your customers and prospects or run afoul of regulators.

If you’re interested in learning five other tips to help implement a holistic Big Data strategy, check out our Insights white paper Big Data: Overhyped or Underexploited? (login required).

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