The first of November is Global Business Analysis Day. How are you planning to mark the occasion? To start, you might try wrapping your head around just how much raw data humans have put out into the world. The exact figure is not known, but an article published on Seed Scientific in October 2021 estimated that there were 44 zettabytes of data in the world in 2020. It further estimated that 2.5 quintillion more bytes of data are created daily. By 2025, the amount of data generated each day is expected to reach 463 exabytes globally.
For scale, there are one million bytes in a megabyte (MB), and one billion bytes in a gigabyte (GB). One quintillion bytes are equal to one exabyte, and one thousand exabytes equal one zettabyte. One would need a big head, indeed, to wrap around that much data.
According to Mike Galbreth, Pilot Corporation Chair of Excellence and head of the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, if you were to store all the data created each day on old-school CD-ROMs, in a year you would have six stacks of CD-ROMs – six stacks, that is, that stretched from the Earth to the moon.
It would take a big room to store all those discs – and an awful lot of money to buy them. Since data is now commonly stored across networks and in the cloud, physical storge space is no longer such a big issue. But what about cost?
“How much does it cost to store all this data?” Galbreth says. “In 1960, data storage cost several million dollars per GB. Today, that cost has dropped to less than $0.02 per GB.”
Data, Data, Everywhere, but Not a Byte We Need
So, the world is swarming with data that is ridiculously cheap to store. But the Global Business Analysis Day question is, who is doing what with all that data?
Businesses, apparently, are not doing nearly enough with it. In 2018, Gartner reported that organizations failed to use almost 97 percent of their data. Conversely, companies that take advantage of their data turn incredible profits. Disney, for example, figured out a data-driven approach to handle the problem of data silos, enabling them to stream data so that consumers could pay to binge-watch their favorite programming. Disney didn’t have to wish upon a star to find gold at the end of its rainbow – data led it to the jackpot.
Why, then, do businesses end up with so much unused data piling up in every corner of their cyber offices? Brian Stevens, senior lecturer in business analytics and statistics, calls data the exhaust of modern business.
“So many actions in today’s businesses are automatically captured as data by different apps,” he says. “If the business engine is chugging along, then we have data as the exhaust.”
However, just because that “exhaust data” is captured in an unusable form doesn’t mean it must go to waste.
“A lot of the data has to be cleaned before being analyzed,” Stevens says. “It’s rare that a company knows what questions to ask, how to phrase the questions and who to ask them to in order to use the data.”
Data Analysts ‘R’ Us
That’s where business analytics practitioners come in. They are trained to ask the right questions to the right people to ferret out businesses’ data, clean it up and figure out how best to use it – to improve processes, to profile customers more accurately and so much more. How do they do so? With powerful, number-crunching tools.
In Haslam’s business analytics program, students learn to use multiple tools and techniques for analyzing large data sets. More importantly, at Haslam, says Adam Spannbauer (MSBA, ’15), lecturer in business analytics and statistics, students learn to select instruments appropriate to the analysis they are doing.
“A lot of fuss is made about, ‘Do you prefer R or Python?’ ‘Tableau vs Power BI?’ or “Hammer vs screwdriver?” Spannbauer says. “Good analysts know how to choose the right tool for the task at hand.”
One of the most significant tasks that business analysts apply their skills to is making businesses more successful. Stevens points to the story of the Oakland A’s depicted in Moneyball as an example of an organization that took advantage of business analytics. In 2002, the cash-strapped team used analysis of historical data and predictive modeling to identify capable players deemed failures by more well-financed teams and hired them on the cheap. That A’s team clinched the MLB American League West in a historic season that saw them win a record-setting 20 games in a row.
Global Business Analysis Day
There is a lesson to learn from the A’s success, Stevens says.
“If you’re in an industry that is not yet data-driven, you’re probably in an industry with the highest potential for a complete paradigm shift when it becomes data-driven,” he says.
Firms in such industries could gain a competitive edge by being first to take advantage of business analytics. When they are ready, those companies will need capable data analysts to guide them. So, coming full circle, perhaps the best way to mark Global Business Analysis Day is to learn more about how you could become the data analyst who helps a savvy company use your insights to drive its success.
About Haslam’s Department of Business Analytics and Statistics
The Department of Business Analytics and Statistics’ mission is to create knowledge through research and to disseminate that knowledge through its degree programs. The faculty uses the results of its application-focused research to educate students on how to effect positive change within organizations by emphasizing soft skills such as communication and team building alongside the targeted and effective use of analytics. The department’s continually evolving curriculum draws on state-of-the-art theoretical and practical content from the fields of statistics, machine learning and operations research.
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org