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The new realm of Big Data Analytics

Being a critical business analyst is at the heart of management consulting - seeking out valuable data and generating new ideas to maximise efficiency and profit within companies.

But there's no escaping it – today we are all members of a highly digital world and the new heights to which digital can reach just keep jumping forward. With the 'Big Data Revolution' in full swing, consultants now have a much wider array of business data to analyse and this can be a daunting challenge. Thankfully, there are a great range of analysis tools being developed to work with this vast amount of data.

The days of tedious Excel databasing, queries and reports are slowly being transformed by live analytics dashboards from the digital space as more and more businesses build high powered analytics tools into their websites and internal systems. Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) can deliver far more detailed information about consumer habits and is designed to condense this into easy to read statistics at your fingertips at any time of day. Some of the key players include:

  • Google Analytics – an easy starting point for online analysis which tracks web traffic through the juggernaut of search engines, though consultants must be aware of the ways in which data can be skewed here[1]
  • Tranzlogic – collects credit card transaction info to monitor spending habits of consumers
  • Qualtrics – offers various consumer quality surveys to analyse improvements to customer service
  • InsightSquared - data mines from connected data analysis accounts such as Salesforce, Quickbooks, ShoreTel Sky and Zendesk
  • IBM's Watson Analytics – this soon to be launched product from the computer giant also aims to unify analysis through one platform, merging marketing, sales, finance and HR issues into an easy to read format
  • CalmSea – allows retailers to procure social network information to monitor trends and launch finely tuned marketing campaigns following the ebb and flow of public sentiment to products.
  • Canopy Labs 360 Customer View - provides comprehensive data about every single customer, including the most profitable people worth reaching out to[2]

With all this new data analysis software out there, does this mean that the era of consulting is coming to an end? Are consultants becoming irrelevant in a world where so much data analysis can be done automatically by machines?

The answer is no, perhaps they are more important than ever. With more complex data being collected 24/7 in this 'Big Data' age, the more complex the results. The analysis can come in three forms[3]:

  1. 'descriptive' – a summary of what is happening in the online space, social media results tend to be in this category
  2. 'predictive' – a probability/forecast of what to expect in the future based on the current information at hand
  3. 'prescriptive' – provides a series of outcomes based on a variety of actions that can be taken and ways in which to continue tracking results.

With the varying ways in which analysis tools provide us with such information, bringing in a trained consultant who can understand the meaning of such results and come up with new syntheses between different cross-referenced points is the only way in which bosses can be helped to make data-driven decisions. As Brain McCarthy, director of analytics strategy at Accenture, says; “companies are trying to figure out how to extract value from all the noise”[4] and this is where the role of the consultant becomes key.

Consultants don't need to compete with computers, they just need to understand the new options out there for data analysis and adapt to the changing environment. As businesses increasingly become more reliant on digital for their operational improvement and strategic outlook, consultants have to keep up with the game.