How well do you use big data to persuade?

There is no doubt Big Data is coming. No, let me correct that: Big Data is here.

How much big data are we generating?

We try to understand what this means for executives and senior managers as we get bombarded with numbers. For example, people quote things like Terabytes. So, just what is a Terabyte?

Well the official definition is that a terabyte is a thousand Gigabytes. That’s not helpful to me. On my desk is a portable 1 TB drive and it’s 10mm thick. Google processes 1000TB of data every hour, this is 10 metres high. That's big data.

Each day the New York Stock Exchange trades it creates 1 Terabyte of data. And next time you fly, the sensor data on your plane produces 10 Terabytes of data every 30 minutes. How much is 10 Terabytes? Well it’s the same as the printed collection of the U. S. Library of Congress. So when you fly from Sydney to Melbourne, your plane has produced twice as much data as in the library of Congress.

Data is becoming the new raw material of business
— Craig Mundie, head of research and strategy, Microsoft

How to use big data to persuade?

For executives and senior managers, there is no doubt we will all hold far more data about our customers. The challenges will be to analyse and then to persuade, using this big data. In our experience most people still analyse in Excel and persuade in PowerPoint. And when most people try to persuade with data: they don’t persuade, they dissuade.

What do we mean by dissuade? Well spreadsheets have allsorts of shading. Allsorts of fonts in allsorts of colours plus plenty of bold and plenty of black lines.

Pasted into a single slide, the spreadsheets have tens of numbers and sometimes hundreds of numbers. Ask: What’s the message of the slide? Fifteen minutes later, the presenter’s answer finishes. They dissuade because the audience is deterred by complexity and colour.

For all of us, our time is too busy for us to work even harder to understand and then be persuaded by someone’s data. So, the presenter’s job is to simplify and persuade with data. If most presenters are poor at persuading with data, then big data will just bring us bigger problems.    

Looking forward, the winner will not be the company with the most data. The winner will be the company most effective at persuading with data. It's time to become more effective at persuading with data than your competitor?