The Osservatorio del Politecnico di Milano presented the outcome of a research study on Big Data Analytics and Business Intelligence, entitled “Big Data: a market in search of an author".
The study, which was conducted in 2014, involved a panel of 155 people including IT and Marketing top managers of big companies and SMBs, with a view to monitoring the proliferation of Big Data Analysis and Business Intelligence solutions in Italy. The main purpose is understanding benefits and adoption barriers, sharing success cases and exploring how start-ups contribute to the evolution of this market sector.
Neodata, in the person of Tommaso Giola, COO and co-founder, took part in the panel "The Start-up ecosystem", sharing its story: born over ten years ago with a focus in Data Mining, today Neodata is a provider of reference in Italy for Big Data analysis, audience analysis and DMP solutions for brands, publishers and broadcasters.
The research results highlighted a growth in investments as far as Performance Management & Basic Analytics, as well as Advanced Analytics solutions are concerned, with a penetration of respectively 78% and 35%: even if ICT budgets remained the same in 2014 compared to 2013, the expenses in Big Data Analytics have grown 25% YoY.
The Marketing department seems to be the main consumer of Big Data Analytics (87% of the instances) and investments in Marketing Analytics, which nowadays represent 2% of the Marketing budget in Italy, are destined to reach 4,7% in two years, reducing the gap between Italy and the leading countries, such as the United States. The main applications of Big Data Analysis are new customers acquisition (65% of the panel) and a more efficient management of the relationship with existing customers (85% of the panel).
Data are mainly structured and coming to a great extent from the CRM systems (subscription and purchase data), from collaborative CRMs (geolocation, purchase channels and relationship data), from search data, mobile, social. In particular, Social Analytics initiatives have doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year, and they focus mainly on reputation analysis and on identifying influencers.
So, given the adoption of Big Data analysis solution is a priority for all the interviewees, why is the penetration of Analytics systems still slower in Italy compared to other western countries? The research study highlights the existence of cultural and organizational barriers and the lack of professional figures capable of managing inter-functional Big Data projects in an adequate manner.
We assist to the birth of new professional roles, such as the Chief Data Officer and the Data Scientist. They are a combination of management/organizational competencies, knowledge of mathematical and statistical sciences, experience in marketing and business. The demand for such professional roles is higher than the offer currently: 400.000 Data Scientist jobs are expected to be needed in the United Staes alone in 2015, while the market will provide only 140.000 data scientists ready for the job.
Many local and international start-ups are being founded to respond to the growing need of Big Data Analysis capabilities. They offer analysis applications for structured and unstructured data, either applicable across businesses or specializing in vertical industries. Their offer includes Semantic Analysis systems, machine learning, video and eye tracking, geo targeting, customer analytics, social and web analytics solutions, and so on.
In addition to adopting data analysis technologies though, companies have the need to integrate data analysis into the company culture, as it emerges from the research study. The scarcity of adequately trained professional figures opens the door to companies specializing in technology and capable of offering consulting services, too. In facts, in addition to defining the requisites of the platform in terms of design, companies must find efficient ways to exploit the knowledge of their audience/users/customers, to bring insights to life. For this reason, the selection and purchase of Big Data Analysis platforms involve other departments in addition to ICT. Although the IT department has the most relevant technical expertise, in many cases it is the least involved when it comes to utilizing insights to generate a return.
Companies that have been capable of integrating the data analysis culture into their relationship with customers demand that multiple functions exploit the Big Data analysis platforms co-operating with each other: the ICT department grants data quality BI and Analysis helps structure and share consumer knowledge; managers help integrate the knowledge into decision processes; the marketing department allocates resources to ensure the company can communicate effectively and efficiently with its audience.
We help our customers define technical requisites and development roadmaps as they plan to adopt a Big Data Analysis solution, making sure we facilitate the dialogue amongst all the company functions that will eventually use the data. We normally suggest running pilot tests first, as they represent the first step towards the understanding and the usage of data, and they suggest whether customization is a viable or sometimes necessary option, but one step at a time, based on the company's priorities.
One of the main challenges is data integration when data comes from multiple, heterogeneous sources. Data normalization is also perceived as a key issue: the data heritage is rich in most companies, however in most cases it is impossible - or at least expensive - to match and merge data coming from diverse sources. As a result, the functions who define, create and manage the relationship between the end customer and the brand cannot benefit from insights or targeting capabilities that may well impact performance.
We believe our role is not only that of selling a technology solution, but rather supporting our clients whenever they lack dedicated professional figures, such as Data Scientists for instance. We do so by putting at their disposal a 10 years experience in data mining.
We are witnessing a key moment in our history: a new way of interacting with consumers has been born. Marketing practices renew themselves by learning a new language, creating new moments of contact and new communication paradigms. This renewal process cannot happen overnight and organizations can find a new balance only through experience. Our task is to utilize our knowledge to support the change, helping our clients explore and understand the universe of digital technologies they can count on today.