“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” — Winston Churchill
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy, one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes ever, hit the eastern United States. Airbnb, an online matchmaker for travel rentals, was one of several organizations who immediately put big data to work — e.g., social and geo-location — to provide timely assistance to hurricane victims.
In partnership with New York City, Airbnb was able to connect over 1,400 families, whose homes had been washed out by the storm, with free temporary housing provided by Airbnb community members. These strange bedfellows — big data, the media, and open hearts — proved to be a powerful combination for this community in distress.
If we look at this story from a data standpoint, it reminds us how valuable data can be. Data is more than just a bunch of text, files, transactions, images, and digital 1′s and 0′s filling up our data centers and smartphones. When treated as a corporate asset, data can be used to help achieve our corporate strategic goals. Jill Dyché, Vice President of SAS Best Practices, tells executives: “A company’s ability to use information strategically is directly correlated to the degree to which the data is governed and managed.”
A Big Data Best Practice for Strategy
With big data technology, it’s becoming easier to process and integrate more and varied types of “big” data — like social, location, machine, and open — with existing traditional data. This puts marketers into a much better position to use data strategically — not only to achieve their own corporate goals, but more holistically, to achieve community and global goals.
That’s what happened with Airbnb. They saw an immediate opportunity to help the community with the data they had access to — internally and externally — and they pursued this opportunity passionately with their members. Don’t be afraid to ask the question: “What more could we be doing with the data now available to us?” You never know what it could do for your business.
Key Takeaways for Marketers
- When it comes to data strategy, don’t differentiate between big and traditional data. It’s all data.
- Data, regardless of size, is a strategic corporate asset. Govern it. Manage it. Treat it as if it were your own.
- Keep an eye on the Dragon in the Corporate Strategy territory on the island. It might have your Knight for lunch.
- Accept big data’s invitation to imagine again. Don’t limit yourself.