How Big Data is transforming business

Why use Big Data?

As defined by IBM, ‘Big Data’ is an opportunity to explore new and ‘intelligent’ decisions. This data is collected from social media posts, digital pictures, GPS signals, purchase transactions, and more. Data journalist such as David McCandless visualizes the data to reveal patterns and connections.

This field is booming with analysts discovering statistics that change our view. In Hans Rosling’s TED talk, he explores global trends in order to “debunk” myths with statistical evidence. As stated by Rosling, information needs to be more accessible because it has the potential to change the quality of the information itself. ‘Big Data’ is used as a way to inform individuals and businesses on the most intelligent choice that uses statistical evidence instead of intuition. In ‘Just-in-time’ descriptive analytics, Kandogan intelligently explains that visualization techniques coupled with analytic techniques allows the structure of the data be understood easier. Although Kandogan reports on how to observe statistical trends and patterns by seeing where the ‘data-points’ lie on the graph, this isn’t ground breaking information that will be significant to a business. I now know what ‘Big Data’ is and many of these articles explain how to read the structure of data but in a business, one needs to be ready to explain something that another person is not familiar with at all.

It’s all a story

Innovators such as Hans Rosling were using big data to move forward as I researched more. What was his appeal? He told a captivating story of why and how the data looked; he stayed away from statistical terms but engaged every member of the audience to understand his research. Kristain Hammond from the Harvard Business Review insists that a narrative that gives context to data is more valuable than the data itself. As Hammond asserts, communicating what the data means provides useful insights for businesses and individuals to make the best decisions.

To supplement Hammond’s view with formal research, the Journal of Statistics Education published an article that highlights students develop a conceptual depth and inferential thoughts. The research argues in favor of stories as verbal clarification in order for the audience to ingest the information. My research has led to me to explore the building blocks of data-driven story telling to help everyone in the business understand.

My research felt incomplete and I needed to find out how would this launch a business forward. From what I’ve written before, ‘Big Data’ is changing how we learn and express the information but what is new in the field of ‘Big Data’?

Beyond Advertisements

No longer ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘Big Data’ isn’t only for the sophisticated researchers such as Hans Rosling. Today and in the future, everyone has the capacity to become informative and contribute to their business. In Mona Patel’s article, she points out data is easily accessible for even small businesses today. Businesses ask their own questions and explore different views that could be extremely beneficial, as Patel evaluated. The ability to explore new viewpoints is transcending beyond internet advertisements.
Jeffrey Hammerbacher is using his experience to combine genetic information with the medical histories to build more sophisticated models of biology and health outcomes. He once worked as a data analyst for internet advertising, today he aspires to move medicine in the direction of a quantitative discipline. His talents are helping medical research evolve. Jake Porway also has used his skills in order to social issues and real world problems. His mission is to collaborate an understanding and insight through data in order to serve humanity.

How are Hammerbacher and Porway changing business? They are addressing issues beyond internet advertisement. They are solving real-world problems. Their innovative businesses and projects add value to our transforming society. In my conclusion from the research I found, these innovators are explaining what they see from the data collected. They translate their ideas and views to their teams in order to focus on a singular goal of solving the world’s problems.


Let the Picture do all the Talking

It’s the Same Old Song

Presentation skills are a completely important skill set to have. Whether in undergraduate or employment, effective communication has been stressed as important foundations for career success. Those basics of body language have been done over countless times. Communication skills can only impress the audience so far. An effective presentation needs to invigorate rather than trying to make “boring” information less “boring” in a few steps.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Today, there have been such great presentations by Steve Jobs and TED Talks that have completely captivated the world. They do more than follow a basic 7 step outline. These presentations were engaging, passionate, and exciting. Each of these awe-inspiring presentations have visual aid to convey their powerful message. Researchers have noted effective presentation skills based off what people like Steve Jobs have done. Steve Jobs didn’t convey the iPod to be less boring as others put it, he visualized a story for his audience.

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” is recognized as “seeing is believing” according to the Picture superiority effect which confirms: humans more easily learn and recall information that is presented as pictures than when the same information is presented in words. Bulletpoints aren’t effective tools anymore to explain “how things work”, according to Marta Kagan. Kagan provides seven ‘lessons’ on how the human brain learns better through visual aid and emotion in the form of a story.

Brainstorm ideas, visuals, and concepts that break down complex data into a simple narration that supports a message to the audience. As stated by Kagan, let the message be clear and concise such that the audience retains what is said. Information is not provided but a message is conveyed, according to Kagan.


Visualization is an extremely effective tool for presenting on “how things work”. Today, visual presentations aren’t “what is”, they tell a story of what could be and how we get there as concluded by Kagan. Exploring the road map to “what could be” is all in the process of how we learn.

Watch when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in which he delivers a presentation using visuals as key points to reinforce his message.

Help Visualize Your Story

What we already know?

Big Data uses evidence-based decision-making in order to benefit businesses. Today, businesses are collecting every aspect of their operations for data analysis. Will the collection of data alone advise the business to a winning solution? Here, Mark Cenicola writes the standard norm for collecting data within a business

Visualize what you have

Why bother looking through excel charts and numbers that you have very little understanding of. As explained here, John Sivolka of the Harvard Business Review enforces the idea that we as human being learn better with visualization. Here he outlines the benefits to visual representation:

  • Great visualizations are efficient — they let people look at vast quantities of data quickly.
  • Visualizations can help an analyst or a group achieve more insight into the nature of a problem and discover new understanding
  • A great visualization can help create a shared view of a situation and align folks on needed actions.
  • In Sivolka’s conclusion, he states that visualization helps provide a shared understanding in a problem.

    It’s amazing that we have all these tools for complying data but how can we make sense of it all? How am I as an analyst able to make decisions that my colleagues and I can agree upon?

    Data analysis is a story

    A creative story that involves imagination? Yes- data analysis requires us to make a story of what we see. Kristian Hammond from Harvard Business Review highlights how data itself isn’t the solution, it’s part of the path to a solution. Hammond reports on the importance of establishing correct comparisons and explaining them in the form of a narrative. According to Hammond, the data is simply an instrument to help ‘write’ the story. He adds that a narrative gives context to today’s numbers when we visualize trends and patterns to make sense of it all.

    I find that Hammond emphasizes for businesses to embrace the power of computers as guides of our stories. Once we visualize all this information, we have a better understanding of our narrative. The narrative, according to Hammond, helps advise individuals and businesses make intelligent decisions.

    What’s Next?

    We analyze and present the data to others for all sorts of reasons. This unique mix of disciplines and skill sets creates a fascinating landscape of alternative approaches, from the analytical and precise to the more abstract and creatively ambitious. Analysts should provide visuals about the data that allows for a broader audience to understand. Hammond concludes the value of ‘Big Data’ is the narrative that explains, presents, and advises the business.