Big data and the company
The 20th century was called an era of information while the 21st century is likely to be called the era of information management or rather big data management. It has been acknowledged that information is now accelerated at a very large pace and it will be generated even faster in the future. There are numerous sources of information and they are also increasing in number. This paper will explore the essence of “big data” and evaluate its importance for a particular company.
It is necessary to note that the company under analysis is Carrolls® Irish Gifts. The company was established in 1982 with gift shops located in Ireland (Cead Mile Failte 2013). In 2003, the company started online operations and is sending its products to any place in the world. The company has had certain issues with its online operations, as customers are not satisfied with the quality of services (and sometimes products) they get.
In the first place, it is necessary to define the term. Big data can be defined as “data that is too big to fit on a single server, too unstructured to fit into a row-and-column database, or too continuously flowing” (Davenport 2014, p. 1). Interestingly, the term was initially coined by such sciences as genomics and astronomy but it soon spread on all the aspects of people’s lives.
In simple terms, ‘big data’ is generated and spread through media and each data set is linked to numerous other sets. Clearly, the Internet is one of the most important tools in big data generation. Such resources as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, online newspapers and magazines, advertisements, instant messengers and so on provide an enormous amount of data.
The modern business world is also subjected to the issue, as companies have to deal with vast amounts of data. Apart from internal set of data (data on partners, customers, procedures, employees and so on), organisations are exposed to unlimited source of information they get from the internet. Many companies understand benefits of online operations and eagerly go online. However, not all companies succeed in this sphere.
One of major reasons for companies’ unsuccessful online operations is the absence of the appropriate information system. The companies that only start working extensively online should consider obtaining a decision support system that enables organisations to manage information and come up with efficient decisions on numerous issues (Hemmatfar, Salehi & Bayat 2010).
Potential use and value of big data
The company in question is facing a number of challenges associated with big data management. These challenges involve delivery issues, inappropriate communication with customers and insufficient use of data. The company loses its loyal customers, as it cannot address the challenges.
The company has had delivery issues and customers were dissatisfied with the quality of the product that arrived, with the price or terms of the delivery. At the same time, the company claims that the delivery process is convenient for the customer who is able to trace the delivery (Terms & Conditions 2013).
Inability of the company to manage its delivery suggests that the organisation is unable to manage its internal procedures. This makes it important to pay special attention to handling big data and using the right information system as a strategic IS can help managers come up with efficient strategic planning of internal operations and their optimisation (Berman 2010).
Another challenge the company is facing is inability to communicate with customers. Customers have complained that they have not received replies when they contacted the company via email or a message left in social networks. This suggests that the company is unable to trace all the messages and respond to them.
It is noteworthy this is where handling big data is especially important as the company has to monitor different sources and different types of data including social networks, blogs, forums and so on. Boyd and Crawford (2012, p. 6) stress that big data “reframes key questions about… the processes of research, how we should engage with information, and the nature and the categorization of reality”.
Finally, the company seems to underuse the Internet. It has its account in Facebook and Twitter and shares some information on events. However, this is not enough for a modern company operating online. Companies selling online have already acknowledged benefits of using social networks as an effective promotional tool (Buhl et al. 2013).
Carrolls® Irish Gifts should also start using these resources to remain competitive. Clearly, the company needs to obtain effective tools to handle big data, as this will enable it to find new options to advertise and promote products.
As has been mentioned above, it can be beneficial for the company to utilise a decision support system, who will help in handling big data. It is necessary to note that the stakeholders of the systems’ implementation will be the company’s employees and its customers. At that, employees will have to employ it while customers will be affected by it. It is important to add that the system has to be both technology- and human- based.
Thus, the system should have operations implemented automatically while some decisions should be made by people (though the process can be facilitated by the software) (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier 2013). The system will enable the company’s employees to effectively respond to customers addressing the organisation (Miller & Mork 2013). It will also help to develop various promotional events on the basis of the latest trends appearing online.
When it comes to customers, they will benefit, as the quality of service provided will increase significantly. It is possible to maximise the chances to achieve success using employees as part of implementation process. First of all, it is necessary to note that employees are major asset of a company.
It is difficult to employ a person who generates effective ideas or makes the right decisions. For instance, it has been estimated that 38% of employees and 50% of senior managers can be regarded as a “data-savvy” workers who are able to make correct decisions (Shah, Horne & Capella 2012, p. 23).
Of course, it is essential that these effective decision-makers were involved in implementation of the decision support system as it will be technology- and human-based. It is important that the human component is efficient. Clearly, the employees should obtain the necessary training to be able to employ the system. It is necessary to add that this approach can be seen as the use of Business Intelligence, which has proved to be effective in various settings (Lycett 2013).
It is necessary to add that, at some point and to certain extent, customers will also use the system from time to time, or rather have an impact on it. Thus, people share their ideas associated with gifts. The system may analyse the data coming from a number of sources to create new events and new options for the company’s customers. The system will take into account semantic keys and, hence, will trace the change in people’s preference or new expectations (Halevy, Norvig & Pereira 2009).
Value & Benefits
The use of decision support information system that helps to manage big data has tangible as well as intangible benefits. In the first place, it is possible to evaluate tangible benefits of the use of the system. Clearly, the company’s profit will increase, as Carrolls® Irish Gifts is likely to sell more products with the help of online sales.
The company will be able to enter the global market if it handles delivery issues and launches efficient promotional campaign. Apart from that, the use of the system will enable the company to utilise an efficient delivery strategy, which will reduce costs.
However, it is clear that when it comes to online sales, the organization needs a team of effective employees who can address all the issues associated with online operations. Staff reduction is not necessarily the option but training and hiring inspiring leaders will be beneficial for the company.
The system will also choose the best partner when it comes to delivery as well as production. The decision support information system will evaluate benefits as well as downsides of working with existing partners and can help identify new reliable partners.
As far as intangible benefits are concerned, the organisation will be able to improve its image when it comes to online selling. When reading reviews on Facebook or other reviews online, it is clear that those who buy from stores are happier than those who buy online. Better online services will enlarge the array of the company’s loyal customers. As has been mentioned above, the system will identify people’s expectations and needs as well as new trends that appear.
It is possible to state that the use of the IS in question is also important for maintenance of competitive advantage. Davenport, Bensoussan and Fleisher (2012) note that Porter’s value chain is somewhat simplistic but it can be used when evaluating values as well as the company’s competitive advantage.
Inbound logistics will be improved with the help of the IS in question, as the system will help senior managers evaluate effectiveness of operations with this or that partner as well as find new suppliers. When it comes to operations, the company will be able to improve them with the help of adequate information system. There have been numerous complaints on inappropriate service as well as quality of products.
The company has to manage big data to trace all the faults of products produced and eliminate the existing imperfections. It is noteworthy that outbound logistics will also improve, as delivery services will be optimised. Although the company has made a significant progress in this sphere and transparency of the process is a great competitive advantage, there are still numerous issues that need to be solved to satisfy the customers’ expectations.
Marketing and sales can be seen as the aspect that will most benefit from effective management of big data and the use of decision support information system. The company will be able to use social networks in marketing and sales. The products can be promoted through these resources.
Clearly, services will also be improved considerably when the company will be able to manage big data. First of all, it will be easier to trace customers’ complaints or questions and effectively respond to them. As has been mentioned above, only a part of employees (especially among managers) are effective decision makers and the decision support IS will make this sector more efficient since a lot of claims can be processed automatically while others need effective managers.
Support activities will also be improved with the help of efficient IS. For instance, the company’s infrastructure will become more efficient as managers will have more information and will be able to respond to the changing environment more quickly. Human capital management would be more efficient as employees will get the necessary training and will obtain the necessary skills in big data management as well as decision-making.
Procurement will be improved and this is important for the company, as it is clear that there are issues with delivery and addressing complaints. Finally, systems and technology will also benefit from the use of big data management and IS, as the company will start using technology more effectively.
It is also possible to employ O’Brien and Marakas model when evaluating the role of IS for competitive advantage of the company in question. The model implies the use of five competitive strategies: cost leadership, innovation and differentiation, alliance and growth.
As far as cost leadership is concerned, information systems can shift the company’s costs. Thus, proper decisions made with the help of decision support IS can decrease the company’s costs through optimising delivery services, addressing customer’s complaints on time and so on.
When it comes to differentiation, IS can sustain competitive advantage of the company through development of differentiation features. Thus, the decision support IS can help the company develop services and products that will meet its customers’ requirements.
Analysis of big data (social media) can help to identify trends existing in the target market and develop certain services to meets the needs of people. As for innovation, it is closely connected with differentiation but it also includes innovative approaches in marketing. Decision support IS can help identify opportunities social media have to offer (for example, promotion of events and products on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).
As far as growth is concerned, IS are essential for competitive advantage for the company operating online. Analysis of big data will enable top management identify the changes that take place in the market. This can help the company consider entering a new market or acquiring some facilities abroad. Clearly, this will make the company more competitive as it will have a significant market share.
Finally, as for strategic alliance, IS can help to develop effective relations with partners with the help of certain applications. This can be a significant competitive advantage for the company, as it will optimize its delivery services through efficient communication with partners.
Clearly, implementation of the assets in question will need some time. The use of IS and big data management as well as online operations is quite new for the organisation. Carrolls® Irish Gifts is not a big multinational company that can afford a significant number of IT professionals (who could be acquainted with big data management and IS). Therefore, it is better to address a company that has the necessary experience and can help in implementing the asset.
Otherwise, the company risks losing time and money, which will make it less competitive in the market. The process will take at least six months (see fig. 1). One month will be necessary for choosing the most efficient decision support IS and another month will be needed to acquire software, hardware and so on.
Training of employees will take at least two months. Trials will start during the second month of training, as it is important to make sure that the system works prior to the full-scale use of it. Exploitation of the system will take around three months (during the second month of its usage), it is essential to evaluate it and identify flaws and imperfections if any (and eliminate them).
|1st month||2nd month||3rd month||4th month||5th month||6th month|
|Choosing the IS|
|Acquisition of software|
|Using the IS|
|Evaluation / Analysis|
Figure 1. Timeline of the asset implementation.
To buy and maintain an effective IS, the company will have to allocate at least $5,000. The price will include purchasing the system and training of the staff as well as maintenance services. Apart from these tangible costs, there can be intangible ones.
Since the company’s online operations are far from being effective, it is clear that the employees lack for the necessary skills. It may be necessary to extend the period of training, as employees can be unprepared to use the system. This may lead to additional expenses.
The use of the system and big data management have numerous benefits but they are also associated with risks. One of major risks that still persists and people are concerned with privacy issues. People (all stakeholders involved) may be reluctant to use the system to the fullest. Another risk involve one of major characteristics of data important for information management, which is quality of data.
Healey (2012) stresses that it is rather difficult to ensure high quality of data. To mitigate the risks, it is essential to make employees understand peculiarities and benefits of the system. Employees should understand that they will benefit from the use of the system, as they will be able to meet customers’ needs and expectations.
The sales will grow and the company will be able to provide more benefits to its employees as well. Therefore, the most effective way to eliminate the risks is to train and educate people.
As has been mentioned above, the company may need to expand its staff or optimise it. It is essential to have a department where online operations are monitored and managed. The department may consist of support team and this department will collaborate with IT specialists and other departments.
It is possible to note that creation of the need of change is crucial in the present case. It seems that employees of Carrolls® Irish Gifts do not try to improve online operations and simply do not know how to do it. Hence, it is crucial to make people seek for ways to improve online operations.
It is possible to introduce new perks for employees (departments) who successfully or rather exceptionally carry out these operations. More employees will be eager to learn about ways to improve their performance and the decision support information system can be the necessary solution.
When employees have understood the importance of implementation of the system, they need to be trained. Again, it is possible to make employees more interested in effective learning. Most successful employees may get promotion and may be responsible for particular segment in online operations.
It is also important to make employees report on all difficulties they face or all flaws in the system they encounter. Hence, weekly meetings on the system implementation should take place. Discussions and reporting should be the basis of these meetings and employees should be encouraged to share their experiences.
They should also come up with solutions and ideas on adjusting the system to specific needs and peculiarities of the company. Finally, it is crucial to evaluate the use of the system. Again, reporting and discussions will be helpful for this process.
The head of the newly created department in collaboration with IT professionals and strategic managers have to analyse benefits of the system as well as possible flaws. This stage is important, as it will define the future operations of the company and its ability to meet people’s expectations and needs.
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