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Managers confess the pain of entering the ‘big data’ age

The quest to benefit from the ‘big data’ concept is causing major disruption and confusion to managers, research by the Open University reveals.

The research findings were presented to delegates at the OU Business School’s latest Business Network Breakfast Briefing by Sally Dibb, Professor of Marketing and director of the Institute for Social Marketing.

She said: “One senior manager said that big data has made him doubt his intuitive understanding of his customers. Another commented that he does not know who his customer is any more.

“In the words of a third senior manager: ‘There is more and more data in this day and age but that does not necessarily mean there is more insight. You get drowned in numbers.’”

The OU’s Knowledge Media Institute has set up the European Data Science Academy, a new online platform training European data scientists to support organisations across the EU to meet the urgent demand for professionals with the skills to manage ‘big data.’

Professor Dibb said: “There has been huge hype about developments in ‘big data’ and digital, which have been billed as a panacea for managers seeking the latest customer insight.

"Our research reveals the disruption that managers face as they seek to benefit. For some, big data is disempowering and overwhelming.” 

Among delegates at the breakfast meeting was Martin O’Hara, national strategy manager for the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision at Cranfield University.

He said: “Big data is undoubtedly an important element for any business or organisation to consider in ensuring the growth and sustainability of their business.

"However, it is clear from the research presented by Professor Dibb that it can be overemployed and, if not interpreted effectively, can be as confusing as it is illuminating.”