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Seeing the Forest for the Trees - The Taming of Big Data

The quandary of big data in recent years is similar to looking at a rainforest. There is so much of it, it is not an issue of seeing where and what it is, it is the fear of not seeing the forest for the trees. A rainforest has so many important ecosystems and tiny elements that may be hugely important, similar to big data. Many businesses have the challenge of seeing the thousands of types of data and identifying which elements of the data are important, and what to do about those elements.

At Synchrony Financial, we are a consumer finance company with a deep heritage in the retail sector. As such, we have a very large quantity of data, from several sources, which could include stock keeping unit (SKU) data on purchase transactions, marketing touchpoints, channel interactions, payment history, etc. Our data is not only credit card data normally gathered from an issuer perspective, it is also data we gather to provide value to a retailer. As such, our data tools must be top notch – both scalable and flexible, in order to provide greater insights. And with the accumulation of data comes the responsibility of safeguarding the storage, access, and transfer of data, and ensuring the proper usage of key data elements. The security and protection of private customer data also needs to be a top priority.

In our experience, one strategy that is very helpful in identifying the important elements of the data available is data visualization. Data visualization tools can be crucial in identifying important factors, trends, and outliers in data. After these important factors are uncovered, the question becomes how to create programs that address the important items that can positively impact a business. This can be done with agile methodology. We have found that programs that use agile methodology (created using the partnership of IT and Analytics) can have a large impact on business success, as described in more detail below.