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Travel & Expense

What the Obama Campaign Teaches Us about Big Data Analytics

on February 21, 2013
The election is long over but I find it interesting to look at some of the ways that the Obama Campaign successfully leveraged data. The real trick to a Big Data Application (BDA) was demonstrated by the Obama campaign in the way they closed the last mile of the election.  Yes they united many different sources of data and yes they analyzed it in many innovative dimensions. But the thing that really drove the value was the fact that the campaign staffers knew exactly who to visit and what to say. When they went to visit a voter, they had a briefing sheet that told them what to talk about to that person, what points were likely to resonate, what would motivate that person to get out and vote.  They knew which voters to call on, in terms of voters that they could swing to the President and they knew how to do it. To put in a business context, it’s more than the sales reps knowing all the features and benefits of the product lines. We can use Big Data to help them know the prospects most likely to purchase a product AND the benefits that would mean the most to that specific prospect. There’s really too much focus on the mind blowing “I never would have thought of that” analytics.  The thing the Obama campaign taught us about business analytics is it’s more how you put the data and the analysis to work that matters. In my opinion, that’s the flaw in so much of the Big Data dialogue, there’s too much emphasis on the “gee whiz analysis” and “look at this really cool graphic”.  Instead it should be on how we put a big data insight to work to collectively move the needle. The real value in big data is the fact that we have all the details, the peculiar and subtle insights are where the unique advantages are. It’s the fact that we don’t’ need to deal with averages and the inherent loss of fidelity created by the averaging process that creates the compelling advantage. That’s what we need to focus on – what can we find in the details that can let a front line employee make a smarter decision – just like the Obama campaign workers.

Patrick Taylor

Patrick Taylor is an authority in the convergence of business analytics, information security, and the implementation of technology to boost organizational performance. An innovator in his field, Patrick founded Oversight Systems in 2003 and served as President and CEO for 15 years. In this role, he helped hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies improve financial, accounting, and auditing processes. Previously, Patrick held leadership positions with Oracle, Symantec, and Internet Security Systems (ISS). Patrick has a bachelor’s degree Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.