Businesses are starting to realize the massive potential that comes with data and analytics in driving productivity.

A recent study from Dresner Advisory Services found that Big Data adoption has reached 59% across industries. The study also reports that 54% of vendors agree that big data has now become ‘critically important’ for them to stay competitive. In fact, Maryville University’s evaluation of the business analytics market predicts that the industry will be worth $95 million by 2020 in the US alone. And learning to make sense of the huge amount of data that’s being generated will only continue to help businesses gain a competitive advantage in the coming years.

With Big Data being a buzzword for more than a decade now, vendors and market leaders are now seeing the ways the technology has increased their profit margins and sparked innovation. But when it comes down to it, is Big Data really the key to making your business significantly more productive?

Business Productivity and Engagement

Big Data solutions improve productivity in three main ways: data-driven decision-making, predictive analytics, and people analytics.

Data streams reflect interactions within a network. Big Data and analytics provide insights and identify bottlenecks within systems. As a decision support system, a set of Big Data tools can do diagnostic analyses and find relations between different data sources and outcomes. This reduces the amount of mistakes and misfires in decision-making. But as experts note, this can only be useful if management feeds their tools the right data.

With the integration of machine learning capabilities, Big Data can provide the basis for predictive analytics. Amazon uses massive data streams to power their impressive delivery capabilities. And using it enables their warehousing system to anticipate demand in specific areas, cutting delivery time and costs while improving the customer experience.

It is impossible to talk about Big Data and not mention Google. One of the key ways the tech giant leverages Big Data is through genuine employee engagement. Using people analytics, Google extracts invaluable insights from their employees’ feedback and performance. In a landmark Google study called Project Aristotle, the company uncovered the perfect formula for effective teams. The findings became the pillars for Google’s currently positive working environment – lauded across industries as a model for both people analytics and employee engagement.

When it’s Not for You

The necessity for Big Data systems can be summarized by three Vs: velocity, volume, and variety. Your business should be able to draw insights from multiple streams of data, which continuously generate enormous amounts of information. If you don’t have that, it’s probably not for you.

Big Data solutions aren’t cheap. Companies are projected to spend around $187 million this year alone on Big Data software and services. While the technology has matured and is now taking on smaller businesses, many treat it as a “magic” solution for improving productivity. However, while big organizations like Google or Amazon cannot function without Big Data, most don’t have these extreme needs.

Optimizing Big Data for Change

Currently, platforms and companies use both public and traded data streams to make Big Data solutions more apt for smaller businesses. By leveraging market data, small and medium businesses can reap the benefits afforded by Big Data.

However, a study from the Federal University of Pernambuco found that Big Data applications can only be effective when decision makers actually have enough skills to use them. The study also presented the need for the whole organization to adapt to the new tools and culture that Big Data propagates.

Technological solutions are only effective when they’re fully embraced by the workforce. Getting people on board with the new tools and processes makes the difference, according to Agile and Scrum advocate Ivana Sarandeska.

In short, implementing new technological solutions like Big Data should be combined with people management. Big Data tools are more than just shiny, new toys for your organization. If you have the data streams, the necessary skills, and the support and cooperation of your workforce, these tools might just be what your business needs to unlock unprecedented productivity.

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About the Author: Erica Stanford

Erica Stanford is a tech writer who sees disruptive technologies as stepping stones towards the next phase in the evolution of humanity. As an aspiring data scientist, she believes that this evolution will be powered by raw data and the algorithms designed to decipher what the numbers are trying to tell us. With big data getting bigger with every minute, she also sees countless opportunities for leveraging disruptive technologies towards catalyzing this evolution. When Erica's not learning the finer points of writing and reading code, she likes to spend her time tending to her backyard herb garden.

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