Big Data Trend Watch for Nonprofit Leaders

Is there such a thing as little data? Not anymore.

Big data – defined as extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions – has exploded in recent years. This is largely due to an increasing global digital footprint. According to leading business influencer Bernard Marr, “every two days we create as much data as we did from the beginning of time until 2000, and in two years the amount of digital information available will have grown from around 5 zettabytes today to 50 zettabytes.”

Think about how you have grown the digital data trail in your own personal life within the past five years. How many new digital devices have you purchased? Has your social media, mobile shopping, and GPS-enabled activity increased?

With such an explosion in consumer data, concerns with privacy and security follow. And the use of data to analyze and predict human behavior often is looked upon with skepticism. It’s no wonder big data has been given a bad rap in recent months.

The role of big data in the future workplace

Last month we described emerging trends that are shaping the future of work. Two of these trends, artificial intelligence and machine learning, are closely tied to big data. In the past – when data wasn’t so big – humans managed information via spreadsheets, databases, and even written archives. As technology has evolved, computers are able to sift through data much more efficiently and reliably than humans, identifying current patterns and predicting future behaviors.

Using big data to support your mission

We understand your organization’s mission is your top concern, and we’re here to tell you that you can use data analytics to your strategic advantage. Here’s how.

  1. Get to know your customers better. Data tells you about the people you serve. Who is your intended audience, and are you reaching these individuals? Use the data at your fingertips to create stakeholder personas and more smartly promote your mission to your customer.
  2. Identify and fill skills gaps. You work hard to hire and train individuals who are contributing to the mission of your organization. As the marketplace changes and your strategic objectives evolve, are the employee skills you’re acquiring and developing growing, too? Data can help you benchmark the current state of talent competencies in your organization against desired ones. It also can predict the skills you must develop in the years to come.
  3. Ensure mission-critical work is aligned with business goals. Your programs and services are the meat of your mission – do their outcomes support your business goals? Do metrics meet or miss their marks? Program evaluation and outcome measurement would be impossible without data. As your data warehouse grows, so do the insights about the performance of your organization, and the success of your mission overall.

Big data will only get bigger in years to come, yet many nonprofit leaders dance around the topic with fear and trepidation. Is your organization’s strategic plan prioritizing big data? Do you have data analysis skills represented on your staff? Organization and development firm Brighter Strategies can partner with you to ensure your systems are in sync for a future of bigger data. Contact us today to learn more.

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