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Report Back From Arthur Page in San Francisco

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I’m just back from the Arthur Page conference in San Francisco, the twice-yearly confab for Chief Communications Officers, and this year’s theme was a steady drumbeat about data.

“Big data,” of course – data that ultimately hold the promise of more than volume, but actual diversity to power the answers to myriad questions.  IBM’s John Kelly gave a terrific talk about what big data mean to communicators, speaking to “the four V’s” – the volume, velocity, variety and veracity that big data promise. Interestingly enough, he projects that in the next few years nearly 80 percent of our data will be coming in the form of video.  While it’s difficult to think of the infographics we’ve all become so good at creating over the past few years as a passing fad driving audience engagement, Kelly predicts video will dominate in the not so distant future.

Ann Winblad, partner at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, discussed how a data-driven orientation is built into every company they are funding, no matter what the sector. The implications of this are enormous, especially as we think about IBM’s Watson taking up residence at Wellpoint for the last seven months.

In discussions following these presentations, the CCOs assembled to discuss the possibilities that big data advance. Having data is one thing, but what do we ask of it, learn from it, do with it? And where does the CCO fit in this picture?

Throughout the meeting, CCOs were polled real-time on questions relating to data use, ownership and measurement. Here are just a few data points generated at the meeting that might interest communicators:

  • 41 percent of CCOs ranked big data as “very important” to their organizations – yet 30 percent acknowledged it is “important – but we aren’t doing much in this area yet”
  • CCOs named customer feedback, brand research and formal media and opinion surveys as their top three sources of data in their current roles
  • They also say that the CIO has the biggest share of budget for big data (45 percent), followed closely by CMOs (36 percent)
  • 55 percent indicated they needed assistance in measuring the ROI of big data, with nearly 35 percent reporting they were unsure if they needed assistance, presumably related to the number of CCOs calling big data important but suggesting their companies are not deeply engaged with it yet

Big data is on its way. How do you think it will it change the way we work as communicators?

Kym White is the global practice chair, Health.

Photo Credit: Robert Law Design

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