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What Is Big Data?

What Is Big Data?

Keith Conley

03/13/2015

By Keith Conley, Director, Analytics & Insight, Bunchball
@conleyinsights

Big data refers to the explosion in the size, amount and form of information available around any one individual, organization or event. But what does that mean exactly? Why is data "exploding," and perhaps even more importantly, why should you care? Let me walk you through the definition step-by-step.

What is big data and where does it come from?

What is Big Data?For years now, traditional data, such as information about what customers buy and records about how employees perform, has been stored in filing cabinets, Rolodexes or databases. In general terms, this data has been available to anyone with the appropriate access and tools.

Big data is different.

Big data is:

  • derived from an increasingly wide variety of sources
  • assembled in a variety of forms, some structured and processed and some unstructured and unprocessed
  • present in extraordinary and ever-increasing quantities

Big data is the result of our digital society. Today, nearly everything we do is mediated by technology – and therefore able to generate data. When you watch a movie on Netflix, buy shoes at Amazon, or log into your social collaboration platform at work, your actions are recorded as data. The list of data sources is virtually endless, and when you combine all of these data points together, you get big data.

How can businesses use big data?

Thanks to big data, today's businesses have unprecedented opportunities to learn what people (employees, partners and customers) do, where they do it, when they do it, and what they like. With the right tools, all the big data that's being generated can be collected, filtered and analyzed to identify trends and gain new business insights.

At Bunchball, we know how to leverage big data analytics, fundamental design principles and universal human motivators to create gamified environments that drive better business performance and ultimately drive ROI. We focus on two broad areas: the consumer space and the employee space.

Big data in the consumer space

Marketers want to gain and retain customers, and in order to do that, they need to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Today's marketers are relying on big data for targeted advertising and cross-selling, in-store behavior analysis, real-time pricing optimization, social media monitoring, recommendation monitoring and employee engagement. In other words, virtually every aspect of sales, marketing and customer relationship management is being transformed by big data.

Surprised by the mention of employee engagement? Don't be. More and more companies recognize that employee engagement is the key to creating and sustaining a customer-centric culture, the kind of culture that leads directly to better customer outcomes and improved business performance. And that's a perfect segue to the second area where big data is having an enormous impact...

Big data in the employee space

Your employees now generate big data as they work. Think of how much time your workforce uses POS systems, CRMs or other digital tools. All that big data is captured and stored, waiting for you to analyze it for insights that can help you make work better and more productive. For example, companies can use big data to improve hiring, collaboration, learning, training, engagement and performance, to name just a few.

At Bunchball, we use gamification to integrate intrinsic motivators into the workplace. Through these gamified environments, employees see their work as more meaningful, and they become eager and willing to learn and contribute. As a result, business performance improves in measurable ways.

To sum it up, big data enables businesses to know their employees, partners and customers in exciting and unprecedented ways, and that's why there's such massive potential for big data across all industries. Keep this in mind, too: Whether your company is big or small, the tools for capturing and analyzing big data are becoming cheaper and more accessible by the day. Now is the time to start understanding it, experimenting with it and leveraging it to drive a competitive advantage for your business.

Curious about the "universal human motivators" I mentioned above? Stay tuned. We'll be discussing those in more detail in an upcoming blog post titled "What is Intrinsic Motivation?"


This is the first post in our new "What is Gamification?" series. In this series, we'll explore key terms and concepts related to gamification, providing definitions and examples. Please check back frequently to learn about motivation, engagement, game mechanics and more.

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