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Paul Sonderegger Oracle’s Big Data Strategist

How should organisations incorporate big data into a competitive strategy? The twin forces of digitisation and datafication seem to bring big data disruption to every industry. Long-standing music, news, and television giants are reeling. Uber has taxi companies running scared across the globe. And Google’s might compelled two of the world’s leading advertising agencies to attempt an ultimately unsuccessful merger. But digitisation and datafication are not specific technologies owned by one firm. They’re methods open to all. But getting disrupted by these methods depends not on whether you’re an incumbent or an upstart. It depends on your big data strategy. Strategy, according to Michael Porter, the world’s foremost authority on the topic, is choosing to create a unique value in a unique way. It’s not enough to offer a

product or service customers can get only from you. You also have to create and deliver those products and services in ways your competition can’t easily copy. Because every activity in a company both uses and produces information, data can make new products and services, and new ways of delivering them, possible. But how do you incorporate big data into your competitive strategy? Here are the four critical steps:


DATAFY MORE ACTIVITIES Data comes from digitising activities. Putting vibration sensors on calibrated manufacturing equipment, providing mobile diagnostic apps to patients with chronic medical conditions, even automating additional human resource processes adds potential value to your stock of data.


CREATE PROPRIETARY DATA ASSETS Think of interactions with customers and suppliers as territory to claim before the competition does. If you can get a mobile app into their hands first, you alone capture the data from using it. When tapping third party data like twitter feeds and facebook posts which may be equally accessible to rivals, combine it with customer or transaction data only you have. Like pouring milk into a cup of coffee, a dollop of private data mixed with public data makes the whole concoction unique.



USE DATA TO MAKE DATA The very act of using data creates additional data for further use. A financial services firm checks person-to-person mobile payments for fraud with machinelearning algorithms. The data produced by scoring each of the transactions then becomes input to make the algorithm more effective. This big data flywheel effect is a key part of the most successful online consumer services like Google, Amazon, and Uber.


FIND YOUR INNER PLATFORM Technology competition tends to revolve around platforms with winner-take-all network effects. This happened with PCs, and is happening again with Smartphones. As digitisation and datafication spread into more industries, platform competition follows. For many companies, this may require some bold thinking. For example, a large bank in Spain started a mobile ad-delivery service that helps retailers tailor offers to consumers based on combinations of banking and social media data, plus geographic data from ATM use. Inviting other banks to participate in this already innovative service could transform it into a true platform whose increased value would more than make up for having to give pieces of the pie to other banks. Never send to know for whom the big data bell tolls; it tolls for thee. But an effective big data strategy can turn digitisation and datafication to your advantage.


Profile for Outlook Publishing

Africa Outlook Issue 19  

Essential reading for those who want to keep up to date with African business.

Africa Outlook Issue 19  

Essential reading for those who want to keep up to date with African business.