Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Big Data: Lessons Learned

Uma Gupta

Business Department, SUNY Buffalo State

Today our world is filled with data. Everywhere we turn, we read about the extraordinary benefits of Big Data. Many experts predict that Big Data will transform the way we learn, understand and interact with the world in which we live. It is regarded as a force that will disrupt entire industries by providing competitive advantage to firms that leverage the full power of Big Data. Since we live in a highly interconnected world, every "connection" generates its own data. When data connections are processed to glean insights that until now were beyond reach, organizations can achieve a competitive advantage by solving solve complex problems. The world of Data Science promises to help us move from data to information to knowledge and perhaps, even wisdom, which is the key to organizational success and sustainability. The key question confronting businesses and senior leaders is not whether Big Data will provide a competitive edge. Preliminary evidence of the benefits of Big Data is compelling. The challenging questions facing organizations are many including how to carefully select the right Big Data projects so that it delivers the maximum profit and marketplace advantage; how to carefully define the competitive advantage of each Big Data initiative; how to integrate the benefits of multiple Big Data projects into a cohesive whole that provides compelling, sustainable and unbeatable advantages in the marketplace; how to fully assess and measure the competitive advantages that Big Data will deliver; and how to stay ahead of the competition by being creative and innovative with effectively mining Big Data to solve customer headaches. The author uses an expanded version of the 5V framework of Big Data to explain how vision and strategy are fundamental to achieving a competitive advantage in Big Data applications and projects. The expanded framework includes organizational vision, which is fundamental to ensuring that the entire organization, and not just the Big Data team, understands the implications and potential of Big Data for the future of the organization. Using Porter's classic theory on the five competitive forces that shape the competitive advantage of a firm, this paper outlines key issues that managers of Big Data projects must consider to ensure that their projects deliver value. Finally, successful case studies on Big Data are used to elaborate on the concepts outlined in this paper. The case studies are also used to drive home the point that the competitive advantages provided by Big Data projects may be difficult for competitors to imitate.