I see both sides of the equation. At SAP, we work with businesses and nonprofits of every size and industry. They’re all wrestling with what’s been dubbed “big data.”
In fact, the sheer volume of data these days is massive – more than 300 exabytes of data worldwide, researchers have calculated. That’s 300 billion gigabytes, covering everything from books and microfilm to YouTube clips.
Data Acceleration: Gaining Control of Enterprise Data
In this ocean of information, the challenge is to not just take in but make sense of it – however fast the data is coming at you. We call this challenge “Data Acceleration.” Real-time answers on any data set are absolutely transformational – enabling “in the moment” decisions.
What’s also changing is where all this data comes from. Nowadays you need to leverage a much broader data set to effectively manage your organization. It’s far more than customer and product databases, or even transactional data from your ERP systems.
There’s geospatial tracking (e.g. where are all the trucks in your delivery fleet right now?), scanned documents, and unstructured data (who’s our go-to person on route optimization, and when does she have time to talk?). All these new data types and sources present a huge opportunity to transform the way we work and help us perform better.
And then there’s social media. Those millions of Twitter and Facebook accounts, news feeds and photo streams, are a valuable source of information for the enterprise. After all, when consumers use social media to get insight into products and services they use, the data streams run both ways.
I know this from personal experience.
Social Media Streams Meet Enterprise Data
Since my daughter was born in 2006, I’ve had a crash course on social media. In search of the safest baby jogger or most cost-effective diaper service, I’ve spent thousands of hours browsing through catalogs, news stories, blogs, and postings to product review sites.
So I was all over the news that the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission had found a group of plastics called phthalates potentially unsafe to use in toys and products for small children and asked manufacturers to stop using them.
Planning to give up phthalates involved relatively simple calculations for companies. How many bottles did I make last month? Last year? How much does it cost me to produce them? How much will it cost me to replace the harmful ingredients? ERP or supply-chain planning software covers those issues competently.
But in February 2009, four days before the phthalate ban went into effect, a federal court declared that it also applied to all baby products and toys already on store shelves.
This development was more challenging for manufacturers. First, they needed to examine all their materials lists in minute detail for the forbidden ingredients. Then they had to track down all the shipments that had already gone out.
Even more importantly, they had to measure and manage public sentiment, which would help them redirect their sales and marketing strategies and product development. Companies had to know what, say, women between 25 and 39 were saying about their baby bottles and what sorts of replacements they were considering.
Thanks to social media, that information’s all out there. The only problem: it’s in a million different places.
You could hire an army of interns to track down this data – but that’s only the first step. You still need to complete the picture by seamlessly meshing the information from these social media sources with your corporate information systems, so that you can make better decisions.
Even better, your corporate information systems should know how to use social media to create a seamless view of a customer’s landscape. This capability is still just emerging. But whether I’m wearing my enterprise-applications hat or my new-mom hat, it’s a capability I’m all in favor of.
What examples have you seen? How do you see processes changing to include social media into real-time operations?