Managing Big Data

Senior managers are just as important as data analysts.

Senior managers are just as important as data scientists in unlocking the value of big data, according to Maggie Zeng, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Kent Business School, and Keith Glaister, professor of international business at Warwick Business School, both in the U.K.

The researchers studied five Chinese internet platform companies that have big data at the heart of their operations. They interviewed 42 senior managers, including CEOs, and conducted 34 interviews with partner firms and third-party developers to understand how the companies use big data internally and externally. They also analyzed meeting minutes and business strategy documents.

They found that managers can derive the most benefits from big data in four key areas:

Data democratization: When employees are allowed to interpret the data, they have a better chance of deriving insights from the information. They also benefit from better cross-team collaboration, which enables them to ask and answer the right questions.

Data contextualization: When employees have access to relevant business information about the organization, they have a better understanding of the results they have generated.

Data experimentation: When staff members can experiment with data on a trial and error basis, they’re more likely to find new insights than they are within more rigid data analysis structures. Data insight execution: When managers create cultures that encourage insights from data analysis, potential benefits are realized more quickly. The authors believe understanding these advantages will help business leaders make better use of the “ever-increasing data silos to enable strategic decision making.”

“Value creation from big data: Looking inside the black box” was first published online March 14, 2017, by Strategic Organization.