Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Fri 21 Jul

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programme, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives. This month, we spoke to Dawn Holmes from Manchester Business School about Big Data.

Following the Innovation Day in July, Jeanne Meinholt, Senior Researcher at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Dawn Holmes (DH), Manchester Business School, to discuss how organisations can approach Big Data.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address, that your research tackles?

DH: My research covers two key areas for businesses; Big Data and Customer Experience. Big Data is such a hot topic, but many organisations do not yet understand how they can benefit from new opportunities that Big Data offers. By becoming more aware of the broader definitions of Big Data (i.e. a holistic approach to collecting, analysing, and using data to create value and competitive advantage) businesses can move away from the technology based view that definitions based on the 3Vs (Volume, Velocity and Variety) create and can become more strategic.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

DH: Businesses should start not with the data, but with the outcome they want to see. By looking at what competitive advantage they want to gain and working backwards to identify what data and analysis is needed to support it, will generate much better results than starting with data and wondering what can be achieved. For my research, that means looking at how the customer experience can be enhanced and what is needed to do that. For others, the outcome may be around increased safety, cost reduction, improved sales, efficiencies, speed or other operational targets.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

DH: It is early days for my research, but it is already clear that Big Data is different – it isn’t just another technology evolution (as we saw with Customer Relationship Management and Enterprise Resource Planning). It’s much wider ranging and has a much bigger impact – hence the hype and the increasing interest in the topic. But using data isn’t anything new and companies who have a data driven approach to decision making should find the shift to utilising Big Data much easier than companies who will require not only a technology shift but also a cultural change.

KB: What did you learn or take away from meeting with the executives in the KnowledgeBrief Innovation Programmes?

DH: Much of the discussion around Big Data relates to culture. In a world where it is possible for everyone in the organisation to access data and information, traditional hierarchical boundaries break down. The old saying “Knowledge is power” is no longer true – everyone can access knowledge, it is no longer a political tool or the underpinnings of a power base. A question often asked is “Who should own the data?” I think this is the wrong question. Instead we should be defining multiple roles around data and deciding who is in the best position to fulfil each role and making sure they are all integrated. This includes the collection of data, the analysis of data, governance, use and strategic direction. But most of all, we should be asking what data do we need to make our lives better, and who is best placed to achieve that. Knowledge is not power, it is value, and it should be increased across the organisation.

With thanks to Dawn Holmes, Practitioner and Doctoral Researcher, Manchester Business School.

Next month, clients will be exploring a new way of thinking about the future of their organisation with Professor Victor Newman from University of Greenwich. Find out more here.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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