Big Data is already a reality that is changing the commercial offering of companies. Its impact is already being felt in a whole gamut of industries, from finance to insurance and even non-profit organizations.
The recent conference entitled “From zero to infinity: taking off with Big Data,” at the Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid, showcased some of the recent developments in applying big data. Companies of all kinds, from Amazon Web Services to Correos, Alsa and Hortonworks, shared their impressions and reported on the progress in this budding discipline.
The use of big data to plan the demand for their services is held in common by two widely different companies: the health insurer Sanitas and the passenger transport company Alsa. As Alsa´s operations director Carlos Acha explains, his company seeks to become a “mobility manager” a sector that is now on the rise, thanks to digitization.
Acha detailed how Alsa uses big data as part of this transition. Thanks to the use of massive data, the company can predict with greater precision the evolution of demand for tickets. This allows Alsa to do revenue management in the same way as an airline or hotel. In practice, this supposes a price policy with a great deal of flexibility: the tariffs very frequently, as a function of factors such as the number of passengers on the vehicle or the date of the trip.
Health insurer Sanitas already uses big data to “predict, months ahead and quite accurately, the number of arrivals at emergency rooms, by specialization,” explained Juan José Casado, Data & Analytics Corporate Director at Sanitas.
Casado, who is also the academic director of the Master´s Program in Big Data at IE Business School in Madrid, expounded on the possibilities of the discipline, when combined with artificial intelligence, to improve customer management. However, it also is useful for an internal audience: a company’s employees. Once again, Alsa is a good example. It already analyzes data on excessive speed in vehicles, detecting who the less careful drivers are and the locations on the highway that might cause them to make errors.
Buses, hospitals and even non-profit foundations can benefit from big data techniques. Lucila Ballarino, global head of Digital Transformation at the Telefónica Foundation, explained how they have tried to stop making decisions based on “expert intuition” and let themselves be guided by big data. There are already areas that have taken this step. “When we have to decide whether in Cuenca we train people in robotics or in big data, we do so based upon more information, crossing the data from the National Employment Institute with demographics, job offers, etc.”
Big data enables its users to compare assertions with realities. Giving a “like” in Facebook or filling out a questionnaire isn´t the same as a person´s real activity, which can now be confirmed with data. At the Telefónica Foundation, they have seen this in the participation of volunteers in their programs. “Before, we used to encourage them to participate based upon what they told us they were interested in; now, we do so as a function of what they have actually done, what they have actually helped us to do.”
In the finance industry, big data enables companies to make decisions with all the necessary information. A good example is the Redex program, developed by BBVA Data & Analytics, which has received an award from The Banker magazine, part of the Financial Times group.
This is a pioneering project that will use data to improve the process of risk assessment in applications for credit; it is especially useful when dealing with short credit histories. The bank makes a decision based on more information. As a result, clients such as young, recently-founded companies may obtain financing that was previously inaccessible to them.
The possibilities of applying big data to the finance world are enormous, but a lot of groundwork is necessary. As Jon Ander Beracoechea, one of the heads of BBVA Data & Analytics, explains, “banking data are extraordinarily rich and varied, but the real challenge is how to domesticate that informational diversity in order to provide value for our customers. This implies having the right talent, the necessary technological platforms and an organizational design that facilitates interactions.”
The reward makes it worth the trouble. BBVA has been on this path since 2012 and already, many of its clients are benefitting from the bank´s bet on big data, with services such as Bconomy, Valora and Commerce 360, as well as the small improvements that make their financial experience simpler and more efficient.