Big Data is fun to play with, but in the end it should result in some strategic offering if you expect to get your money's worth. Determining your strategic offering is one of two key outcomes in the third and final phase of cinematic visionography--the other being target market. Many strategists use the term product/market mix to describe this outcome in general terms; however, I prefer to use the term offering instead of product. It may be semantics, but using the term offering reminds you there are more than just products to consider. When deciding your customer offering, you should consider products, services, and relationships; in each case, Big Data can play a big role.
Big Data and products
Big Data products are a viable option when considering your customer offering. Products are tangible goods that are sold to your customers. They can be as mundane as a bar of soap, or as sophisticated as a jet fighter. When considering how Big Data can fit into your products, remember our competitive definition: Big data is the massive amount of rapidly moving and freely available data that potentially serves a valuable and unique need in the marketplace, but is extremely expensive and difficult to mine by traditional means.
If you already have a product in the marketplace, this is a good place to start, especially if it's a problem child (i.e. high market growth but relatively low market share). Think about how this product can be bundled with valuable and unique information that's hard to obtain. For instance, consider a security system that monitors the activity in your neighborhood in real time through an automated neighborhood watch. In this case, the data collected from the neighborhood is proprietary, which makes it difficult for others to collect and mine. Of course, the system could also tap into any public data shared by the authorities, but the value of the offering comes from the data that isn't public. This is characteristic of information products that leverage Big Data--the source data is typically collected and mined internally. Also, the human resources that build out your Big Data capabilities (e.g. data scientists) are typically found in the product development teams.
Big Data and services
Another Big Data offering to consider is services. Services are intangibles that are sold to your customers. Services come in the form of support, professional, or education. Although support services have limited applicability for Big Data, professional and education services pose terrific opportunities. Professional services are projects staffed by your resources that help your clients improve their condition. They may be related to other products that your offer or they may be standalone. Education services are classes and workshops that you provide to your clients.
In both cases, Big Data presents great opportunities. As the three Vs of Big Data (volume, velocity, and variety) accelerate over time, the demand for talented resources will increase as well. If you succeed in securing and cultivating this talent, your company will become valuable in the marketplace.
For Big Data services, the locus of data supply shifts from internal to external. Instead of leveraging the data that you've collected and mined internally, you're leveraging the talent and processes that you've developed internally to help external customers with their data. For professional services, the approach can be either black box or white box. In black box professional services, you receive raw data from your client and return mined information, without sharing your process. In white box professional services, your process is revealed. White box professional services are more transparent, but also more valuable, so you should adjust your fees accordingly. If Big Data education services are offered to your client, they should include something proprietary to be competitive. Don't simply offer a class that is taught at any college; work with your data scientists to invent a unique process or analysis that can be developed into a compelling workshop.
Big Data and relationships
Finally, let's consider Big Data and relationships--an often overlooked offering. Relationships are services that are offered for free. Although they're offered at no cost to the client, they should hold equal ground with products and services in your strategic considerations. They are explored in the same way services are; however, you must make sure they're not dependent on another product or service. Also, you shouldn't move the same offering back and forth between a relationship and a service. For instance, you can create a black box relationship offering that takes your client's data and returns valuable, mined information back to the client--all for free. However, when times get tough, you must resist the urge to convert this into a billable service. Relationship offerings are a great way to fortify customer loyalty.
Competitive Big Data can take the form of a product, service, and/or relationship. How Big Data fits in your offering/market mix is a critical aspect of creating your vision and overall strategy. The key with Big Data is to either go big or don't go at all. If you decide to create a Big Data information product, make it the best product in the world. If you plan to provide a competitive Big Data service, create something nobody has ever imagined before. Start today by looking at your existing products. Big Data might be able to turn that problem child into a star.
John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps executives turn chaotic information into profitable wisdom.