Data for all

Sean Farrington, regional vice president Northern Europe and managing director UK & Ireland at QlikTech, says big data should be available across organisations

Big data has gone from being an industry buzz word to one of the most prevalent technologies in our society. From the information-gathering bins in London through to personalised retail offers, big data is everywhere. We’re seeing all kinds of organisations, from hospitals and schools to fire departments, using it, as well as the more “conventional” private-sector enterprises and businesses. With a recent report from Gartner showing 42 per cent of IT leaders have already invested in big data technology or plan to within the next year, it’s easy to argue that big data for everyone has arrived.

But it’s the way this data is used that makes all of the difference. After all, it’s one thing to gather and hold masses of data within the business, but what if it’s not actually being analysed and put to use? The true business value of big data comes from drilling down into the information and getting insights into how improvements to the organisation can be made. We call this business discovery – not only looking at data, but seeing how this can be applied for everyday enhancement.

However, while “big data for everyone” is applicable across a number of industries, I want to argue that it should also be applicable for everyone across a business. We’re still seeing companies with sets of dedicated, skilled data scientists and analysts who are specifically tasked with sorting through the information at hand before sharing their insights with the rest of the business. At QlikTech, we believe it makes more sense for the people who will be using the information to drill into it themselves and therefore we encourage our clients to instil a sense of business discovery across their organisations.

Our team is now able to analyse the data and, based on clients’ needs, create practical and effective solutions… Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Global transaction services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch have had great success with this approach. Philip Casas, sales and business performance manager at the company, comments: “Through our client interactions, we have a significant amount of information at our disposal across all lines of business. As information breeds insight, we wanted to equip our team with the most appropriate data to gain a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of our clients’ requirements. Our team is now able to analyse the data and, based on clients’ needs, create practical and effective solutions.”

This method of data analysis has also been adopted by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which has 900 people accessing and getting insights from its data. “We found the most effective way to learn from our information was giving employees from across the trust access to it,” says Dr Marc Farr, deputy director of information. “From the chief executive through to nurses on the wards, staff have access to our data, so they can make changes to the way we operate constantly. For example, employees in our A&E department can see in real time how busy we are and make decisions on the re-allocation of doctors or nurses between sites, to ensure demand is being met.”

Clearly by equipping people from all walks of life with analytics, data can be of benefit to everyone, whether creating a richer model of their business or simply showing more about the wider world. Insights can be gained that would otherwise have been lost, delivering a view of trends and establishing a competitive edge.