The amount of data created each year skyrocketed in 2008 to 2.8 zettabytes (that’s the multiplication of a byte of data by the seventh power of 1,000). In 2015, that number will have doubled. The mind-numbingly enormous mountains of data created by people, governments and businesses provides a logistical nightmare to enterprises that feel overwhelmed by the concept of “big data.” But for savvy businesses that store, analyze and benefit from it in real time, big data provides an incredible opportunity to paint a clearer picture of who their customers are, what strategies are working and what adjustments should be made. If you’re going global with your business, you have two options: Develop a bid data strategy or get left behind.

 

Cloud Storage: There’s No Place Like (Someone Else’s) Home

 

When it comes to big data storage and analytics for your global business, you have essentially two options: maintain it yourself on site, or farm it out to a third-party cloud services host. With the exception of the rarest circumstances (which almost always apply to large, secure operations such as banks and healthcare firms), remote hosting is the best — and, in reality, only — option.

 

Big data places incredible demands on networks, storage and servers. Couple that with the fact that your data needs to be protected, maintained, updated, backed up and secured, there is essentially no logical reason not to subscribe to a cloud provider that specializes in only that.

 

Personnel: How a New Breed of Tech Geeks Are More Valuable than Any Software

 

The Harvard Business Review recently discussed the future of data collection and analysis for global businesses. The conclusion was that the future lies not in technology, but in manpower. The authors debated whether or not data data is “useless without the skills to analyze it” and seemed to conclude that software can only take us so far — that the analysis of “large, messy, unstructured data” is reliant not on machines, but on human beings with unique skills.

 

Improving your “data literacy” with a few key hires will become especially important when your business goes global. All of the data surrounding your transactions, your customer information, your advertising campaigns and more are now multiplied and complicated with new languages, new locations and — hopefully — new customers. Warehousing this data is one thing. Analyzing it, however, requires the service of a specialized, new kind of employee who represents a hybrid between IT specialist, marketing professional, researcher and programmer.

 

These job interviews will lend you a genuine opportunity to think outside the box. This new breed of data pros can come from anywhere. When a college admissions administrator received a tenfold increase in applications at the same time that her university increased the amount of required student information, for example, she was forced to become a data wonk. In another case, a lawyer who was tasked with leading his firm’s “digital discovery” department was forced to become a data expert after dealing with individual cases that typically contained between 200-300 GB of data.

 

Use this opportunity to break your own rules regarding an employee’s background, education and experience. In this instance, it is a new recruit’s special skills that matter more than anything else.

 

Good Software: Secondary to Good People, But Still Vital

 

Even the best data analysis personnel can’t get the job done with a pad and paper — or an Excel spreadsheet or traditional accounting software. Your global business will need powerful software to allow your data expert to reach his or her potential.

 

A new breed of software like the popular and efficient Tableau serves the dual purpose of collecting, sorting and analyzing data on one end, and then presenting it in digestible, attractive, shareable presentations on the other end. The reality is that each business — and its data needs — are unique — and so will be its software. However, any system you choose should provide:

  • Real-time analytics.
  • A dashboard that allows sharing online, including across mobile devices.
  • Automatic updates to integrate the latest data into each analysis.

 

Doing business globally requires the collection, sorting, analysis and presentation of enormous amounts of data. You data analysis strategy should be focused — first and foremost — on hiring and retaining people who are part of a bold, quirky, eclectic generation of IT pros. The foundation should should be cloud-based and driven by powerful software, but never forget the human element. Like your global enterprise, data is a business about people.