Top 10 References for applying Big Data and Analytics in Business

See how businesses leverage data analytics for great gain to help others understand the business value of data science projects and provide examples to inspire your own data-driven projects.

By Alex Jones, August 10, 2014.

Between rising Data Scientist salaries, rapidly evolving software and hardware needs, and mounting technical hurdles, enterprises are keenly aware of the price of data analytics.

While there is generally little doubt the potential value of data science, realizing that value can be more cumbersome than anticipated (as with most IT projects). That said, analytics professionals who firmly demonstrate the net gain of their projects, will find themselves with greater organizational support, higher degrees of trust, and more freedom to pursue the innate intellectual curiosity that drives so many data scientists.

As someone who sees beauty in simplicity, I often jot a note or two from reports, articles, and personal experiences. Most recently, I took moment to distill some of the common themes and advice about how data science and analytics initiatives can have the greatest IMPACT.

  • Identify Alternatives- Often times, this is as simple as structuring out the problem, as I wrote about in Data Science: Bridging the Gap between IT & Business. Data driven solutions are not always appropriate or needed. Inherently, this requires a strong understanding of business and problem. Consider this story.
  • Manage Quality- Humans and data will never be perfect. When possible, automate data collection, cleansing, and measurements to help isolate errors and develop a trusted version of truth.
  • Plant seeds- This is particularly important for new analytics teams. Constantly seek out new opportunities, prioritize projects with the highest potential value, and begin collecting data. This will help to ensure you have a pipeline of projects well into the future.
  • Assess your Value - All other metrics aside, calculate what your “total cost” is-- between salary, benefits, special tools and resources, etc. Now, how does that compare to the value you’ve created? Keep this in mind to prioritize between projects.
  • Crowdsource- Teach other analysts the basics of data manipulation and analysis, the efforts will help build bridges, save time, gain greater domain expertise, conceptualize opportunities and ultimately drive value. Consider the Top 10 Tools for Business Data Analysis as a starting point for a wide analyst audience.
  • Team approach- Although some “Unicorns” may be completely capable of managing the entire process from data collection, warehousing, processing, project development, analysis, and implementation, delegating and focused expertise can accelerate (and often reduce long-term costs) projects.

Even with an amazing internal team, occasionally an external recommendation or insight can be just what is needed to spur ideas, enhance cost-savings/ gain assumptions, and improve business buy-in.

Let's take a moment to explore some of the references and sources that can help data science teams conceptualize, estimate and prioritize project opportunities. The Top 10 Big Data and Analytics References list was compiled based on specificity and robustness of recommendations (not simply buzzword reports), quality and breadth of analysis, frequency of updates, and recognition/ respect among business leaders.

1) McKinsey- McKinsey’s 2011 report arguably spurred the race for Big Data Analytics. I appreciate McKinsey’s specificity in projected cost savings, details and breakdowns of assumptions, and a willingness to make bold recommendations.

2) Boston Consulting Group- Industry specific recommendations provide high level perspective and assumptions are well explained. Case-studies embedded into BCG's reports help to understand the problem at an operational level.

3) Booz & Co/ Strategy&/ PWC- PWC’s acquisition and rebranding of Booz and Co to Strategy& may be somewhat confusing, but the insights and specific recommendations help to conceptualize opportunities. I appreciate Booz & Co/ Strategy&'s level of detail in industry-specific reports

4) Deloitte- Deloitte’s industry specific reports and recommendations provide context around a number of analytics initiatives at numerous managerial/ operational levels.

5) Accenture- Accenture’s recommendations span operational levels from executives to implementation leaders.

Relative value of tools 6) IBM- IBM’s expertise in analytics provides both thought leadership and interesting case studies.

7) Bain- Bain’s comparisons of major firms and their performance speaks volumes to the value of analytics and a motivating factor for executives.

Data Science Operating Models 8) Booz Allen Hamilton- Booz Allen Hamilton’s Field Guide to Data Science stands out in my mind as one of the best and concise resources to use to introduce business leaders to data science. Leaders in government recommendations and reports.

9) Investment Banks- Investment Banks are excellent resources for deep analysis into industry specific trends and performance. Although reports are often rather dense, the high level perspective and detailed review can be instrumental in designing high value analytics projects.

  • Goldman Sachs
  • Morgan Stanley
  • JP Morgan
  • Bank of America
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Citi Group
  • Credit Suisse
  • Barclay’s

10) Notable Sources- I purposefully steered away from software, hardware and data providers. However, I realize that they can provide exceptional insights. Therefore, below are additional resources to keep an eye on (in no particular order).

  • Gartner
  • SAS
  • O’Reilly
  • KPMG
  • Ernst and Young
  • SAP
  • Oracle
  • Intel
  • Forrester
  • IHS
  • Cisco
  • IDC

Hopefully these resources will complement your understanding and intuition to identify new opportunities. Further, consider your industry and operational area to hone in on those thought leaders and resources that are most relevant.

Finally, I'd love to find additional quality references, where do you go for case studies, ideas, and recommendations for big data analytics projects?

Alex Jones is a Graduate Student at U. Texas McCombs School of Business.

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