Skip to content

ROI: Making Better Decisions

MFG Archive

In a recent Forbes article, Daniel Newman highlights the power of big data to generate return on investment

“With millions of Petabytes of structured and unstructured data being created each year, the volume will only continue to grow exponentially”, begins Daniel Newman in a recent Forbes article. This “leaves us as business leaders and consumers to figure out what potential lies herein.” Whatever that potential may be, he compares it to the emergence of oil, as “the next great natural resource.”

The full article itself is focused on the private sector, but we at Markets For Good would like to draw out the key learnings for our readers. Given that “for large enterprises, big data has become an insurmountable force” we firmly believe our sector needs to keep up, and that means learning from the success or failings of the private sector.

Whilst the benefits are clear for multi billion dollar businesses like Facebook, for those of us who lack substantial budgets, (businesses and charities alike) the default position seems to be to not invest in big data. This is because “the cost, both human capital and in dollars, is too great for most businesses to fully mine the entire data landscape when trying to make business decisions.” Newman even refers to big data usage as “stifled” – a far cry from what many of us think is happening.

As such, Newman focus on the potential returns of big data. Specifically, he highlights “the development of community, the continued investment in keeping employees and customers satisfied, and of course the most sought after ROI metric, which is the revenue generated from your efforts.” The article itself is brimming with fascinating examples of data pioneers and real, relevant progress.

“One great example of this is how Mount Sinai (NY) is using Big Data to predict disease, reduce patient visits and improve the keeping of electronic medical records.” As a result, this means greater patient loyalty, recognition for the hospital, and better staff who are more likely to stay for longer. Not to mention that many donors like to back a winning formula. (As an aside, be sure to enjoy Mario Morino’s article on ‘Healthcare as Harbinger’ for plenty of lessons we can take from healthcare.

“Another leading player in the Big Data space is upstart company Kaggle that turns data visualization into a competition drawing more or less a bounty for data scientists that can create useful information from data on a budget.” These kind of innovations are ideal for charities looking to experiment and push the way they portray data and impact.

From a whole other perspective, focusing on “Smarter Cities and Smarter Curriculums,” IBM is working to use big data to help schools and the workplace prepare for an estimated 4.4 million big data jobs by 2015. It is clear big data is here to stay, and those of us that innovate and lead our relevant sectors will reap the rewards, particularly, as Daniel Newman points out, in community development, customer and employee satisfaction, and increased revenues.

Newman’s conclusion is clear. “For companies large and small, the answers are becoming clearer than ever, once the data is filtered, modeled, presented and explained.” We may not know exactly where big data is taking our social sector, but we know that where we end up will be a better, more informed place than we are now, and that’s worth investment.


Many thanks to Daniel Newman and Forbes for sharing their insights. Stay tuned as we feature more posts from Forbes and around the web in the future. If you stumble upon relevant articles you think we should be featuring, don’t hesitate to tweet or email us.