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Roundup of March news stories

Organizations everywhere, both for profit and not, are continually working to fine-tune their approach to gathering and deploying data. Simply collecting more knowledge and funneling it into corporate data clusters is no longer enough - having a superior strategy past that point has proven equally important. Firms today care about data quality, and they're motivated to put talented people in place to think critically about what it all means. All of these elements matter.

March was another encouraging month for all outfits that care about data mining and analysis. New ideas were discussed, technologies were explored and significant gains were made across a range of industries and sectors. Here's a recap of the stories that made headlines.

Retailers preparing for data influx
Organizations in the retail sector are in the midst of a major overhaul. Many of them are reforming their operations to center around data. They're collecting information about consumer tastes to stay one step ahead of the market, and they're also looking to understand their internal workflows better.

But according to Information Management, they may not have the tools - including tech resources and manpower - required to keep pace.

"Many retailers today do not yet have the big data and analytics maturity to address the range of technology, staffing, data, process, and strategic intent requirements needed to capitalize on their data assets," said Greg Girard, program director at IDC.

Bringing big data to little classrooms
There's also a growing sentiment that an influx of data can help in education. What if teachers had fast access to real-time updates on their students' interests, both inside the classroom and out? They could use that information to craft personalized, finely tuned lesson plans to meet each pupil's needs. Author Jordan Shapiro explained in a recent Forbes report that this idea has real potential.

"Imagine how much more engaged a student would be if the word problems in their math workbooks were based on statistics from the ballgame they streamed on the tablet last night," Shapiro stated. "Imagine if schoolwork included considering how a 20 percent off coupon would impact the final cost of an item put in an online shopping cart last night but never actually purchased."

Address management vital in Medicare
Medicare offices are another type of organization with a clear need for better data. Specifically, they should have a better handle on people's addresses - this way, they can deliver service to people who need it without interruption.

According to Fierce Health Payer, there are currently a few difficulties. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rely on over 200 disparate IT systems for managing all of their information, and corralling it all causes a few headaches. Leslie Fried, director of the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment at the National Council on Aging, says something needs to be done.

"At a time when 10,000 baby boomers are becoming eligible every day for Medicare, it's time to begin the process of fixing this," Fried said.

Collaborating with IT for better analytics
For organizations that want to improve their approach to analytics, the solution is fairly clear. They need to begin by forging better collaboration between their IT departments and the people who use data internally on a regular basis. Alan Grogan, chief analytics officer at the Royal Bank of Scotland, explained in a recent ZDNet report that this can be challenging.

"Technology functions are still finding it difficult to keep up with business demands," Grogan said. "Working in analytics and being responsible for analytics, I can't let that happen. I can't turn around to my CEO or to my customers - or even just if I want to retain staff - to say 'I'm sorry, we just don't have the scalability, the flexibility or the control on the domain.'"

Collaboration is key. That will be a central focus moving forward for everyone who works with data in a public or private setting.

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