How We Teach Customers to Use Big Data

At Oracle OpenWorld last week, Joe Tucci and Jeremy Burton shared insights on how customers are using big data. I was also at the show, meeting with customers about where and how they can employ big data to make smarter business decisions. One of the ways we help customers do that is through a Vision Workshop, which helps clients identify use cases for where and how big data can deliver business value and competitive differentiation.

Vision Workshop Process
Figure 1: Vision Workshop Process

Prior to a workshop, we conduct interviews to capture details on the client’s key business initiatives. Instead of starting with possibilities around data, we start by identifying the levers that drive the business. Next, during the workshop, we facilitate client-specific exercises to help “envision” the realm of what’s possible with big data, and to identify and prioritize big data business use cases specific to the client’s key business initiatives. After the workshop, we recommend next steps that can include an analytics lab, big data advisory services, or big data strategy.

Case Study

We were recently asked by a large US grocer to help their IT Management team to contemplate where and how big data could impact their business. Our goal for this workshop was to create a relevant and provocative big data analytics story specific for them.

Our research identified the following business initiatives:

  • Build customer loyalty
  • Provide exceptional shopping experience
  • Deliver personalized offers via new mobile app

We created mockups of how their internal data sources (sales, customer loyalty) and external data sources (social, mobile) could be coupled with advanced analytics to deliver customer-specific “next best offers” based upon the customer’s shopping history and behaviors.

Customer Loyalty Mockup
Figure 2: Customer Loyalty Mockup

The mockups and the associated envisioning exercises uncovered several use cases where big data could be deployed for immediate business value.


The Vision Workshop leverages envisioning and facilitation techniques to help organizations identify the business use cases for where and how to start their big data journey.  The Vision Workshop also drives close collaboration between the business and IT stakeholders to identify the key business value drivers and to understand the specific data and technology requirements.

About the Author: Bill Schmarzo

Bill Schmarzo, author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and “Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science”, is responsible for setting strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings for Dell EMC’s Big Data Practice. As a CTO within Dell EMC’s 2,000+ person consulting organization, he works with organizations to identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He’s written white papers, is an avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and data science to power an organization’s key business initiatives. He is a University of San Francisco School of Management (SOM) Executive Fellow where he teaches the “Big Data MBA” course. Bill also just completed a research paper on “Determining The Economic Value of Data”. Onalytica recently ranked Bill as #4 Big Data Influencer worldwide. Bill has over three decades of experience in data warehousing, BI and analytics. Bill authored the Vision Workshop methodology that links an organization’s strategic business initiatives with their supporting data and analytic requirements. Bill serves on the City of San Jose’s Technology Innovation Board, and on the faculties of The Data Warehouse Institute and Strata. Previously, Bill was vice president of Analytics at Yahoo where he was responsible for the development of Yahoo’s Advertiser and Website analytics products, including the delivery of “actionable insights” through a holistic user experience. Before that, Bill oversaw the Analytic Applications business unit at Business Objects, including the development, marketing and sales of their industry-defining analytic applications. Bill holds a Masters Business Administration from University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Computer Science and Business Administration from Coe College.