Every now and again, a new technology development catches the world’s attention and spawns a mass of hype and conjecture. Big data appears to be one such example of this. Perhaps because it contains the word “big”, what actually amounts to large quantities of straightforward data, is being portrayed as something which will change the face of commerce and industry as we know it.
So is big data going to make a big difference to your company’s future supply chain strategy?
Actually it could.
What’s the Big Difference?
There are really just two important differences between big data and conventional data. The first difference is quantity. Big data comprises vast data sets—so vast that tools like Excel can’t even put a scratch in them.
In fact, even many purpose-designed business intelligence software products would take so long to process big-data sets, that their use for the purpose just wouldn’t be practical. Instead, a new breed of analytic software is coming to the fore which can crunch these gargantuan piles of digital information in record time.
The second key difference is that “big data” comprises data which is structured (much like the data in your company’s ERP or warehouse management system), semi structured and unstructured.
Where does unstructured data come from? Just about everywhere. For example, big data can include information extracted from the following sources:
- Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin
- Audio recordings from call-centre logging software
- Text contained in emails
- Blogs and newsfeeds
- Weather and traffic reporting websites
Essentially, any digital information which is accessible to your analytic software can be compiled into data sets which can then be used as input to your supply chain strategy. The software itself can drill down into the masses of available historic and current data (because it operates in near-real-time) to answer specific questions and enable you to run “what if” scenarios.
What if You Could Predict Strategic Outcomes?
Big data can be used to test a change in short-term tactics or to model a long-term supply chain strategy. You can utilize insights gained from historic trends to run a future scenario and predict the outcome. As The Internet of Things begins to flood the cloud with data from sensors embedded into just about everything, big data analytics will become even more accurate in terms of predictive and even prescriptive capabilities.
Big Data Can Drive Future Supply Chain Strategy
For companies that harness big data effectively, the entire process of strategy development will become data-driven. Big data has the potential to eliminate a lot of guesswork and enable decisions to be based on facts.
For now though, only the early adopters who are able to get past the hype and conjecture and identify how to effectively use it, will be able to enjoy the insights attainable from big data in developing current and future supply chain strategy.
Is your company on board with big data yet? If so, we’d love to hear about your early experiences and especially whether results are tangible.