Why big data matters to British business

18 September 2019

Big data is a growing field, attracting the attention of businesses across the United Kingdom. That's because it has the potential to transform even the smallest companies.


It is generated by all sorts of digital activity, from social media posts and emails to website activity and searching habits, as well as the actions of internet of things-enabled devices such as the Amazon Echo. Now-ubiquitous digital marketing tools provided by a host of tech companies rely on big data gather in this way to operate.

Firms need big data now more than ever. By gathering insights about their customers, it provides them with valuable information that they can use to tailor their products and marketing campaigns to their target market. And if they organise and analyse this data effectively, they can gain a significant edge over competitors that lack detailed information about their customers.

An online retailer, for instance, can use big data to learn about an individual customer's interests and purchasing habits, allowing them to predict what they want to buy, and tailoring advertising and email marketing directly to them. In one respect, it is a way of gathering feedback from the consumer in real time.


Last year's winner

The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards recognises British businesses that truly understand the importance of smart data management. Last year, the Experian Data Excellence Award went to Cleveland Police as a result of its innovative ‘Golden Nominal' initiative, which sought to streamline its data gathering and organise the unwieldy amounts of data it possessed.

Cleveland Police found 1,867,000 personal records in their system, despite only 600,000 living in their jurisdiction. They knew, therefore, there must be significant duplicate entries in their system, which meant considerable man hours were being used to search through it.

The ‘Golden Nominal' project was the answer. They sorted through their database, matching and eliminating duplicate and redundant records, and making it far more accessible and easy to use for their officers.

It was a huge success – Cleveland Police now estimates the time taken to resolve data quality issues has reduced from 1.5 hours per day to just 15 minutes. This may potentially save them up to £250,000 per year.

The fact the award went to a public sector organisation demonstrates just how critical big data has become across the private, public and third sectors – not just big business alone.


A complex task

Using customer data became more complicated after the implementation of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in 2018. This required companies across the EU to sift through their existing data and ensure they had explicit permission to store and use it. It proved a gargantuan task for some organisations, often requiring them to delete enormous amounts of personal data.

This legislation may have complicated matters, but it highlights why smart data management is so essential for organisations. It encourages firms to become more efficient and responsible with the data they gather, and in doing so improve their business strategy.