Category

Blog

The Next Era: The Computer Age

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments

The Next Era:  The Computer Age
By Charles W. Stryker

The foundation of the Big Data ecosphere was built from the mid nineteenth century on the backs of innovative, first to market industry leaders like D&B, Reuters and AP.  These early Founding Fathers of Big Data leveraged technological advancements to achieve short-term business goals.  They likely had no idea that their first-to-market strategies of 150 years ago would ensure their company’s leading competitive position today.

Forbes has pointed to the November 1967 paper by B. A. Marron and P. A. D. de Maine as the starting point for tracking the development of the modern Big Data world.  In an article entitled, “Automatic Data Compression”, the authors state that ”The ‘information explosion’ noted in recent years makes it essential that storage requirements for all information be kept to a minimum.” The paper goes on to describe “a fully automatic and rapid three-part compressor which can be used with ‘any’ body of information to greatly reduce slow external storage requirements and to increase the rate of information transmission through a computer.”

With the inception of computer technology, a new world of opportunity opened up that would constitute the next wave of Big Data development.  Once again, as with the companies that supported the first era of Big Data history, the computer era produced several key leaders that emerged as beacons of Big Data development.  Also, within this era of Big Data development came the notion of analytics and how computers would jump start the future of what is now termed “Cognitive Computing”.

The concept of “integrity” formed a significant part of the success equation for the three Founding Father companies we examined earlier.  We saw that customers of these early Founding Father companies were reticent about switching suppliers of mission critical information because they came to depend on the integrity of the information to stay ahead of the competition.  In the second era, the computer era, integrity plays an equally significant role in securing the long term loyalty of a growing customer base.  Acxiom’s Vice President Global Executive for Privacy and Public Policy, Sheila Colclasure, puts it this way:  “For Acxiom, our integrity is central to our success – we’ve built trust over time. You can trust Acxiom to ensure the ethical use of data and also to be dependable, accountable, sustainable, and to deliver.  Our clients and partners trust and depend on Acxiom.”

Acxiom is a company today that processes massive amounts of data on behalf of its clients and it continually enriches its own data repository.  Throughout its half century history, Acxiom has emerged as a leading Founding Father of the Big Data ecosphere and warrants a special place in the second era of Big Data history.

According to Terry Talley, Acxiom Senior Fellow, “Acxiom was born in 1969 and it was actually a spin-off of an IT department of a bus company.  It was the birth of the active use of computers for all kinds of things.  The bus company spun off this capability and they started a company that was to do data processing of all sorts.”

Acxiom began life in Arkansas at a time when the Democratic Party in that state wanted to figure out how to leverage data to find voters.  At that time, the Party was trying to figure out how to do effective mailings for campaigns.  Acxiom was hired to work on the political campaign.  That job started a path of processing data for customers that would quickly became the Acxiom differentiator.  Acxiom became the “go-to” source for direct mail campaigns of all kinds.

The direct marketing industry really got going under the leadership of Acxiom.  In 1970, people used physical mail for outreach to prospective customers.  For Acxiom, the challenge was first acquiring a significant amount of data that wasn’t readily available, in particular the names and addresses of the people in the United States.  The next step after that required a more sophisticated investigation as customers began asking for more specificity about the individuals they wanted to reach.  The notion of a demographic descriptor entered the equation and Acxiom responded by refining the mailing list with added value information such as gender, ethnicity, and income levels.  Acxiom’s ability to respond to these data appends became a part of the story of the growth and sustainability of Acxiom.  The Acxiom historians agree that the Company’s success grew from this ability, early on, to provide targeted programs that would allow its customers to identify and reach the most appropriate prospects.

Charles Morgan, the founding executive credited with guiding Acxiom through the formative years, wrote an interesting history of the Company in a book titled, “Matters of Life and Data”.  When relating the stories that formed Acxiom in the beginning years he points out that when the Company was called upon to work a political direct marketing campaign, there were significant challenges that needed to be overcome.  “Back then, voting records were usually buried away in individual courthouses, so it took a massive manpower effort to mine this data and bring it together in one place. That was step one. Step two was for us to buy a white-page telephone list from a company called Metro Mail and match the union membership rolls to the voting data. Step three was … to set up phone banks to start calling these union members, to find out where they stood on a particular issue, and whether or not they needed assistance getting to the polls.”

The significance of this groundwork showed up in the Democratic Presidential election of 2008.  Morgan described the early work of the Company as the beginnings of the ground game that allowed Obama and the Democrats to win presidential decisions some three decades later. “It was, he said, “the data gathering skill and large scale name and address processing that would one day put our small company on the world map.”

Acxiom began to apply its computer processing acumen to other marketing challenges. Morgan describes an interesting early business deal the company did with Sam Walton.  “Sam wanted cash register tapes from every one of his stores on his desk at 8 o’clock every morning. With those tapes, he could see what every department in every store had sold the day before. The reason he wanted this information is that he didn’t have any cash, and that’s part of the brilliance of Sam Walton’s story – he knew that if he had really good information, he didn’t have to keep so much merchandise in inventory. Sam had no money, so his buyers would go to Spalding Sporting Goods and say, “Spalding, we’re going to buy ten thousand dollars’ worth of basketballs, but we want four weeks from the time we get them in our distribution center to pay you for them.” Because of his tight inventory research, Sam knew he could sell that many basketballs in about three weeks and he got his money the day they were sold. So by the time they were all sold, he would have money in his bank account and still didn’t have to pay Spalding for another week.”

For Acxiom, as the company grew in size and capability, it constantly strived to add more and more computing power to the analytics efforts.  Terry Talley stated that, “the essential problem is Big Data is always at the edge of what you could possibly do in a cost effective manner. What Acxiom did was some very creative things around using collections of less expensive hardware, typically used gear, and string them together in what we would now think of as something as horizontal scaling.”

Acxiom built many of the early computer-based solutions to be able to take on increasingly demanding direct marketing campaigns.  For example, the Company produced its own version of relational databases that were optimized for highly targeted direct marketing campaigns.

When Acxiom customers learned to rely on the high value mailing lists and effective marketing campaigns that were produced by leading edge software analytics, no competitor could easily unseat Acxiom and today the Company enjoys a loyal customer base comprised of some of the largest brands in the world.

 

 

 

Data in the News for the week of October 17, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Big Data news making the rounds this week: WPP’s Xaxis acquires Triad Retail Media * Big Data could mean big money for the auto industry by 2030 * The labyrinth of trouble that is location tracking and ‘opting in’ * plus much more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of October 3, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Data news making waves this week: Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft create non-profit organization to convince consumers artificial intelligence isn’t evil * Verizon’s tall order: to reverse the trend of telecoms’ inability to execute content plans * Why police should use IP addresses as helpful clues rather than a smoking gun * and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of September 19, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Data news making he rounds this week: Five examples of the Analytics of Things * Verizon and Disney deal allows Verizon customers to access Disney Movies Anywhere content digitally * Autotrader partners with MSN Autos to provide online vehicle shopping data * and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

The Founding Fathers of Big Data: Early Founders Wrap-up

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments

bigdata-foundingfathers

The Founding Fathers of Big Data – Early Founders Wrap-up
By Charles W. Stryker

Louis Tappan, Julius Reuter and Moses Beach all laid the groundwork for their respective companies more than a century and a half ago.  Dun & Bradstreet, Thomson Reuters and Associated Press are key Big Data players today because of their entrepreneurial skills and keen understanding of new market opportunities in the mid-1800s.  For each of these Founding Fathers of Big Data, there were similarities in the nature of the challenges they faced in growing their burgeoning businesses.  However, the obstacles to success that they faced were distinctly different.  The solutions were unique in their ability to provide the company with a leverage that worked for the short term and, as it turns out ultimately, for the extremely long term as well.

So what was the magic that worked for these early Founding Fathers?  Clearly it wasn’t just a technology solution alone because soon all competitors would be able to access the same technologies that propelled the market leaders to their successes. For all Founding Father companies we examined, there was a social impetus that drove the entrepreneurs to be the first with a solution.

The mid-nineteenth century was marked by a flood of new commercial activity extending West and South in the U.S. attributable to events such as the California Gold Rush and the opening of the Erie Canal.  While typewriters and carbon paper allowed The Mercantile Agency to build a dominant capability in credit reporting by providing wide geographical distribution of credit report copies, another component was required to cement its winning position throughout the decades.  That factor was developed from the outset, because The Mercantile Agency was there first.  The long term success of the company – even as it morphed through various name changes to arrive at D&B –  was based on developing a relationship of trust with the customer and to be first. Why would any company concerned with the risk of doing business with an unknown company, thousands of miles away, use a new supplier that had never demonstrated their skill in accurately identifying the bad guys from the good?

Similarly, Julius Reuter saw the benefit of using emerging technology to accomplish what no other company could do.  The challenge was commensurate with the times:  stock traders in England and Europe were increasingly hungry for stock market news and quotes.   It was essential to Reuter that he provide the solution.  It turned out that the right solution was an underwater telegraph cable across the English Channel.  He was the first to procure commercial time on the cable to transmit stock prices and quotes from London to the mainland and back again.

Once Reuter was able to show his clients that he could provide them with the most current stock quotes, using an alternative source would be risky for the client. Reuter was the gold standard because he was there first. This phenomenon of making oneself an indispensable solutions provider for the customer became a key component to the long term success of all three companies we have looked at as Founding Fathers of Big Data from the nineteenth century.

Finally, Associated Press provided our third example of the birth of Big Data.  The problems posed by distance and speed of information delivery framed the challenge faced by Moses Beach and his publishing competitors in New York.  The newspaper race to cover the Mexican American War was fraught with logistical impediments as reporters on scene tried to get their first hand report of the battles to a news hungry population in the U.S.  By sharing the costs of news transmission through telegraph lines and private carriers, the AP was able to establish an impenetrable cartel that would stand the test of time for a century and a half.

So the key to short term success for all three of our Founding Father companies we have examined was to implement a technologically-based solution to capitalize on a new business opportunity and to be the first to do it.  If you are first in the information industry, you can expect to have decades of success. This characteristic of the information industry is unique as compared to other technology segments where being first rarely produces a market leader.

 

 

 

Data in the News for the week of August 29, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Big Data topics sparking conversation this week: Geolocation advertising could mean targeted ads by the minute * Use Big Data to create value for customers, not just target them* Infogroup and LiveRamp’s data distribution partnership expands * and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of August 15, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Data news sparking water cooler talk this week: Audi unveils technology that can detect red lights * Walmart acquires Jet.com to help improve online competition with Amazon * American Apparel’s experience leads to the question, are you getting the right data? and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of August 8, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Big Data news making waves this week: Japanese company Dentsu Aegis Network will acquire a majority stake in Maryland-based Merkle * Fear of losing customers has forced banks into finally adapting to the Instant Pay Market * Explaining the Yahoo sale to Verizon * and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of July 25, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Making digital waves this week: Verizon announces purchase of Yahoo, uniting it with AOL under one company * Watson yields returns on IBM’s ad spending * Verisk Analytics set to add Greentech Media’s data, analysis and market intelligence to its energy value chain and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.

Data in the News for the week of July 11, 2016

By | Big Data, Big Data Strategies, Blog, Data Management, Innovation, Social Web | No Comments



Data news sparking conversation this week: Genetics company is selling DNA data to consumers in the search for new drugs * The future of online obituary business is anything but grave * The E.U, and US agree to data transfer pact * and more.

Are you looking to purchase data or possibly figure out how to monetize the data you currently own? Contact us today and let’s discuss your options!

Venture Development Center (VDC) is an advisory services firm that assists its clients in identifying, defining, and implementing breakthrough uses of Big Data. The VDC success story is based on the unique ability of the organization to identify new and powerful data assets from the Big Data ecosystem and then develop applications and information use cases that drive solid revenue results and transform existing business practices. The practice areas that characterize VDC projects include creating new products and revenue streams for data owners and bringing forth new information assets and strategies to educate and assist data users to adapt to the rapidly changing world of Big Data.