Lately it seems I am unable to hide from the term, Big Data. I’m exposed to it in headlines, newspapers (a bit old school, but I still read them), magazines and yes, even blogs. But what does "big data" truly mean and why are we being doused with it? The term is so new I couldn’t locate it in the Merriam-Webster® dictionary, so I took the obvious next course of action and looked up the definition in the infamous Wikipedia. This is what I found:
“Big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications.”
To dealerships, big data, or more importantly the management of big data, can mean the difference between increasing profitability and stagnation. Let’s take the aforementioned definition in a bit more industry-specific direction. To ensure we are maximizing day-to-day operations efficiently we use traditional DMS systems, inventory management systems, RO analysis software, manually-generated spreadsheets, etc. All of this is great and even necessary, but it seems as other technology is advancing and there is more information readily floating around in the cloud, our in-house systems should be able to progress at the same accelerated level.
So what does this mean for us?
In order for us to know what actions we should take, we first need to know what questions to ask ourselves.
What data should we pay attention to?
Any data that can impact our dealership should be monitored. Ignore the data that is fascinating but irrelevant. Perhaps instead of looking at the national averages, comparing our dealership numbers at a regional or state-specific level is the best course of action.
Who should we rely on to receive this information and is the source of this data really credible?
I often find myself five minutes into reading an article or looking at a visually stimulating pie chart that shares impressive data when I realize I’ve never heard of the company publishing it and don’t recognize the columnist. Does that mean you need to recognize every author’s name? Absolutely not (as you might not recognize mine), but take what you find with a bit of caution if the author or company is unfamiliar. These days, it’s pretty easy to find out if an “expert” is speaking with authority, so do some research to find out more before acting on the information.
There is so much noise out there; what should I be looking for to help me manage my data?
There are some amazing new solutions available to help dealerships with data management. Some data management vendors will unleash a plethora of raw data to their customers, but it is hard to make sense of it. Avoid any vendor that says they have it all, as they will tend to over-promise and under-deliver. Look for a platform that works in conjunction with your DMS, fixed, variable and accounting systems. After all, this is the approach that we took when developing NCM axcessa, our web-based software that aggregates your dealership’s big data in real-time and eliminates the need to manually generate reports. Why? Because our clients demanded it be that way; otherwise, it’s just another piece of software rather than the actionable intelligence tool they desired.
Big Data has arrived at the party and the reality is it’s here to stay.
So let’s not only get used to it, let’s embrace its power to help us accelerate our dealerships in an economy and marketplace where the complacent mindset is depleting and the progressive mindset is excelling.