Pittsburgh Technical Council

Making Big Data Actionable

Making Big Data Actionable

Article Published: December 31, 2014

By Matthew Pross, EditorDSC02021

The explosion of mobile computing and smartphone-enabled eCommerce in the last five to seven years has forced “Big Data” into our popular lexicon; however, very few businesses actually know how to get the most out of the massive amount of data now available to them. Executives know it’s there and know it can help their business, but don’t have the faintest idea how to go about monetizing the potential insight locked within the enigma of ‘Big Data.’

Shadyside-based Rhiza is changing this trend by delivering fantastic results for its clients through data analytics platforms that not only pinpoint the important data sets but also display the information in easy-to-understand formats.

DSC02017“Technologically, we are in the infancy of Big Data,” Josh Knauer, CEO of Rhiza, explained. “We have the computing power to collect tons of data, and most of the people working in this space (data geeks) are merely optimizing the processing of this data. But very few people are actually focused on making sense of the data being collected, and even fewer are using this data to make informed business decisions.

“Rhiza is one of the few companies focused on creating solutions that put massive data sets into real-world context,” Knauer continued. “In order for Big Data to be useful, it has to fade into the background. Rhiza creates tools that make data accessible to a broad audience of business users. Sales teams and marketers, for example, use our tools to create beautiful data visualizations that are customized to the specific market/demographic they’re pitching. Sales presentations, it turns out, are incredibly effective when they show something new to the buyer.”

Rhiza offers focused product lines to two distinct customer profiles: large consumer products companies (PepsiCo, Inc., The Clorox Company and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield) and global media companies (Cox, Comcast, Experian, Univision and Dun & Bradstreet). DSC02001

“Our technology empowers business users to find answers to some of the toughest questions a company has,” Knauer explained. “For media companies, we provide data-driven sales presentations with unique insight into the demographic composition of specific markets. Our tool then allows the sales guy to track the effectiveness of each presentation and track sales performance over time, providing measurable ROI to all our media customers.

“Rhiza has also specifically developed a product line of tools for the CMOs of large consumer brands,” he continued. “Our technology subverts the shotgun-marketing approach that so many companies use due to lack of specific customer insight. Not only does our solution for brands enable CMOs to define the profile of their optimal customer, it also pinpoints the exact media channels where they can find and influence the customer. We enable our clients to spend their advertising dollars precisely, while also boosting the effectiveness of their marketing strategies—a result that makes a real impact on the bottom line.”

In terms of the future value or utility of big data in the marketplace, Knauer believes that Rhiza’s current work in the space is a good indicator of where big data will be in the near future.

“Right now, most people and companies are fascinated by the data itself,” Knauer explained. “But companies don’t know what to expect from the data, and don’t know how to use it effectively. Imagine if you had more than just data. Imagine if you could also have suggestions for what data you should examine and then recommendations for what you should do with your findings. Everyone has data, but few organizations know what do to with it.

“Our marketing analytics tools are driving actionable decisions for our customers right now,” Knauer explained. “In the next 10 years, every organization will use big data to increase profits, and to increase operational efficiency. Our clients are already doing those things today.”

It’s important to mention that Rhiza’s leadership position in the big data space is far more than self-promotion. In 2010, Knauer was appointed to a working group of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). According to www.whitehouse.gov, “PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President… PCAST makes policy recommendations in the many areas where understanding of science, technology, and innovation is key to strengthening our economy and forming policy that works for the American people.”

According to www.whitehouse.gov and Rhiza’s blog, Knauer’s work for PCAST has centered on data management best practices and standardization of how open data is defined, collected and published by federal agencies.

“People make better decisions when they have access to data,” Knauer explained. “Our goal is to empower our clients to make better decisions. Big Data is more than a buzz word or a concept that businesses struggle with—it’s a promise of greater revenue and greater efficiencies. So the sooner you can get past the awkward teenage phase, the better.” 

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