Beware the blind preoccupation with big data

Digital disruption. Apparently it’s the next big thing. Every minute of every day something new in digital threatens to corrupt the status quo and ‘truly disrupt’ businesses all over the world, causing untold upheaval and the possibility that you might be missing out. Even as you read this, someone somewhere, is breathlessly extolling the virtues of big data.

Digital disruption can affect all industries. But what are the tangible business benefits? Where is the evidence that supports the investment in big data? Which corporations are yielding the rewards, and how are they achieving it?

Those that think that it will pass them by are sorely mistaken – but this is not new news.

Let’s look at Ticketmaster. Since 2011, Ticketmaster has been allowing its customers to view and book tickets at events based upon where their Facebook friends also have tickets (the smart thing is that it can work both ways; if that cousin you never speak to is sat in row C, avoid her by purchasing row A instead).

In 2012, Lady Gaga’s [now ex-] manager, Troy Carter, revealed that he employed listening data from the online-music-streaming service, Spotify, to help design Gaga’s set-lists from country to country. As he put it, ‘I can sit down with the guy from Spotify, and he shows me this spike on Fridays as people listen to Gaga before going to the clubs. When I go to South Africa I know to include this song in this set, because I know that’s a fan favourite, and also to take this song out.’

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