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Big data has applications beyond just the C-suite

When most people in business think of "big data," they think of corporate leaders devising grand strategies in boardrooms behind closed doors. The assumption is that CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and CMOs will dominate the discussion about how to collect more information and channel it into real results. No one else's opinions matter.

That shouldn't necessarily be the case, but it may require a long-term process to encourage lower-level employees to speak out and ask to be contributors to the big data movement. Mid-level managers surely have valuable opinions to share, and if they are armed with more data analysis expertise, they can impart their wisdom to the employees working under them, which will make the entire workforce more analytics-savvy. So far, though, it's been slow going.

According to Human Resource Outsourcing Today, there's a visible gap between the C-suite and mid-level in terms of analytics expertise. The news source highlighted a recent study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity which found that 48.5 percent of supervisors and 31.5 percent of managers have "novice" or "non-existent" levels of analytical knowledge. Higher up the corporate ladder, this alarming figure is much lower - 26 percent of leaders and 27.1 percent of "functional experts."

Closing the gap
Ideally, this gulf would be narrower. But what are today's business leaders to do?

One answer is that mid-level managers must take the initiative to speak up more and share valuable data-driven insights with the C-suites within their companies. One thing they can do is point to concrete, actionable findings within their data sets that will get their bosses' attention.

For example, Spitfire recommends that managers focus on how big data insights can help companies close more sales. The news source published the results of a CSO Insights survey which found that 90 percent of executives want their sales teams to take more action with big data.

"Big data needs to be a big deal for sales," CSO Insights managing partner Jim Dickie said. "The amount of prospect information out there is a blessing and a curse for sales reps. Our research shows that there is a need for new tools to help reps find the needle in the haystack."

There's no reason for data-driven positions in business to be limited. There are a great many roles in the big data movement, including those centered around storage, data quality and analytical philosophy. By no means should these responsibilities be carried out only in the CEO's office. Opportunities to do more with data are everywhere you look.