There is a lot of talk these days about using “Big Data” for the purpose of analyzing and solving your organization’s challenges. While your organization should have a large set of data that is relatively easy to access, much data is a lot less obvious in its usefulness and more difficult to compile. Before you begin the process of analyzing your data to improve your organization and events, it might be good to understand the four types of data you should consider. We will start with the “low hanging fruit” and then look at the other possibilities.
Internal Structured Data
The easiest data to access is what is produced in your internal computer systems. They may be in disparate software packages, but they are also at your fingertips. Furthermore, since you setup the data for your organization’s needs, the data will tend to be structured in a way that is conducive for analysis. Such systems include:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and membership software
- Event systems such as online registration
- Exhibition and Sponsorship data
- Shopping Carts, E-Commerce, and Product sales
- Web and mobile analytics and logs
- Accounting systems
Internal Unstructured Data
Your organization also has a lot of other types of data, but they are not setup for easy reporting and analysis – hence the name “unstructured.” These include:
- Voicemails and recordings
- Text messages
- Videos – ranging from official productions to security
- Public communications like press releases and blog posts
- Customer feedback
- Human resource material including employee reviews
As you can see, this data is “all over the place” but still may be the source of meaningful information. You should create a listing of all such data you possess and then figure out which ones will be most useful for the purpose of your analysis.
You do not necessarily own or control all the data about your organization. Because of the Internet, much valuable information can be found on popular websites, especially social media. However, much of the data can be organized in the forms of aggregate totals and so can be easily adapted to your analysis:
- Twitter – number of tweets, retweets, followers, update times
- Facebook – number of likes and friends
- Linked In – number of organization page followers
- Ratings, such as Yelp
- Geographic locations of followers and postings
Finally there is the very rich set of data, mostly in the form of content, that comes from these sites, but is not so easily aggregated:
- Content of social media posts
- Online forum conversations
- Comments on rating sites
- Reviews of blog and video postings
- Images from Pinterest and Instagram
- Highly ranked websites and posts that appear when searching on your organization and related products on search engines like Google
Knowing the types of relevant data about your organization is just the first step in starting a Big Data analysis. Pulling this data together into a data repository that can yield useful information is the big next step.
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