Is Data Socialization The Next Big Thing In Data Analytics?


The Big Data revolution in business has come about due to the huge increase in the amount of information we’re able to capture and analyze, from an ever growing number of sources. It’s the driving force behind a wider wave of technology-driven transformation which is taking place thanks to advances in fields such as automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Self-driving cars, personalized medicine and the “fourth industrial revolution” are all built on Big Data.

But the growth in the amount of data available is just the start. Forward-thinkers are aware that the way we consume – and act on – this data has to evolve, too, if we want to unlock its true potential.

Data socialization is a term that’s being heard more frequently, and it’s an attempt to tackle the ongoing (and often mission-critical) process of making sure the right data is in front of the right person – a decision maker – at the right time. Get this wrong, and despite all of your good intentions it is likely that your strategy for data-driven transformation will become one of the many Big Data projects that fail.

It makes perfect sense, really. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have spent billions refining systems for individuals to share data with each other – from photographs to philosophies on life. Billions of datapoints have been captured from their worldwide userbases and put under the microscope to learn how, when and why we communicate – share data – with each other. Why not put this technology and knowledge to use to rethink how we share and communicate this data within an organization?

Traditionally in business, work based around data analytics has been the domain of the IT techie, often working with “siloed” data which no one else would have easy access to, let alone a hope of understanding. Undoubtedly this is because most of the pioneering work has come out of university computer science and statistics departments, or R&D divisions of large tech companies.

Social Media Data Sharing (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

Democratising access to business data

But increasingly, businesses are looking to “democratize” this access to data. It has become apparent that embedding data and analytics throughout an organization, and ensuring its effects can be measured on every process, is often a more productive approach than attempting to impose data-directives in a top-down, centralized manner. From giving shop floor sales staff instant access to personalized (but not necessarily personal – the analytics might be done using anonymized datasets) insights about customers, to allowing engineers to know when an essential machine is likely to fail.

One solution which takes this socialized approach to managing the switch to democratized data is Datawatch’s newest Monarch platform. It is built to foster a collaborative and curated approach to data use, by providing a social media-like space for data preparation and experimentation. Using familiar social staples such as “liking” and “sharing”, quality ideas and insights can rise to the top – wherever they originate in an organization – and quickly come to the aid of those who can use them to inform critical decisions – from shop floor staff to CEOs.

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The idea is that by adding social functionality to a data strategy means that updates can be shared instantly, edits can be brought to the attention of the right people, and reach, interaction and other social metrics can give an accurate picture of the value being gained from any data resource or initiative.

It also ensures that another vital principle of data strategy is covered – data stewardship. Tagging data with information about who has the right to access or use it, and in what way, makes compliance less of a headache. In a socialized data environment, permissions can be set to determine data access, just as privacy functions work on regular social networks.

If you use software for business purposes, how often over the last few years have you found yourself getting frustrated that some bit of information isn’t where you wanted it to be, or that you can’t carry out some function because you can’t find the button which does it?

Personally I think that frustration is probably because Facebook and other mainstream social networks have just got so good at knowing where things should be. We never really expected computers to be intuitive and intelligent in how they serve us information until the rise of social media – but now we see that they can do it, why not apply it to business technology too?

Thanks to the analysis of billions of hours’ of user behavioural data, they know what users are likely to want, and when. It may not always get it 100% right but more often than not they make a decent stab at putting the right button within easy reach when you want it, or bringing something to your attention that’s likely to be of interest.

If BI and analytics-enabling platforms are able to successfully roll out a culture of data-driven experimentation and innovation within modern enterprises, it is likely that they will do it by paying serious attention to the way social media has become enmeshed into everyday lives.

is a best-selling author & keynote speaker on business, technology and the effective use of data. To read his future posts .

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