If you're like most people, you've heard a lot about the concept of Big Data over the last few years. And if you're like most people, your eyes glaze over when you hear the term, and you start wondering about important things like washing your cat, or what you might have for lunch. Or perhaps you are confident enough to throw the buzzword out there yourself on occasion.
After all, when you say "Big Data," people nod seriously and seem impressed by the 50-cent term (though they may actually be wondering whether to check out the new taco place around the corner).
The GIS Planning team wants to put an end to all that. (The buzzword part. Not the taco lunch. We love tacos.)
After all, our business is data. Specifically, slicing and dicing it to make it super useful. Putting it into intuitive, attractive and user-friendly formats you can share with the click of a mouse. Data is a lot like oil - much more valuable and useful the more it is purified and processed.
Which is why we offer you this handy primer on Big Data, so you can use the buzzword AND actually understand what it means and why it matters.
- Big Data makes sense for economic development if you understand that it's the why behind the what. That means that it's the vital information that helps a site selector or business choose your location over any other equivalent community in the world. Maybe it's the concentration of research universities, your cluster of bio tech industry, access to rail, or specific level of employment. Every business has a secret sauce of criteria they need to satisfy to find their best location. This is really important for place marketing, because you already know the kinds of "why" they are looking for: demographics, GIS maps, consumer spending, labor force information, business and industry data, infrastructure, education, talent pool data, etc. Which brings us to number 2.
- The goal is to give website users the critical data they need to make decisions. Many economic development websites forget to make this data avaiable or easily accessible. That's an unfortunate oversight, because 97% of site selectors research locations online. If you aren't offering this information online, you risk losing leads without ever knowing you were being considered. Big Data is simply a reference to the way you harness, maintain and offer this information. Our newly redesigned US national selection portal, ZoomProspector.com, offers more than 1,000 data points on every community in the nation; economic developers can direct site selectors and businesses back to their websites from there by setting up EDO Profiles.
- Big data is actually made up of lots and lots of little data. It can be overwhelming, time-consuming and expensive for any economic development organization to track down, offer and maintain the huge amount of information they must offer to be competitive. Data needs to be robust, reliable, up-to-date, and granular, and ideally offered visually and in a mobile-friendly format. Check out this video to learn
more about the 10 "Musts" of Economic Development Data. Jael Jones, director of market research at Pittsburgh Regional Alliance was particularly excited when we introduced our new Talent Pool reports on ZoomProspector Enterprise, pointing out how much time it saves her team: "They told me it would take them hours to compile that level of data." Amanda King of Roswell Chaves County EDC agrees, pointing out that Intelligence Components significantly changed how she is able to do her job. “I was going through all this data two to three times a year and updating it all myself. These data tools save me at least a couple of weeks of work each year, so I can concentrate on other things.”
- The key to getting value out of the important data for your community isn't how you collect it or even how you store it, it's how you offer it to your stakeholders. Because too much of a good thing can be a problem unless it's organized properly. No one wants to hunt through pages and pages of numbers. Our brains can't make sense of all that information, and we become overwhelmed, frustrated and bored. That's why we've invented (and patented) useful online tools to collect, sort, organize and analyze your data. Our Intelligence Components are excellent examples of this, because each of them put massive amounts of data into the hands of your website user by allowing them to interact with it as they choose. The Demographics Intelligence Component, for example. enables site selectors and businesses to search through a massive amount of information about demographics, consumer spending and labor force within your geography (see a live example here).
- Big Data means putting all that information into a format your website visitors can easily use. While our ZoomProspector Enterprise GIS location analysis application offers tens of thousands of data points aggregated together around a sites and buildings database, our Intelligence Components break down most of the data into specific, focused tools. They are all incredibly useful, but the trick is to put the right tool in the right place when that website visitor needs it.
Want to know more about Big Data and economic development? Check out this previous blog post on the subject, or get in touch to discover the online data tools that can help your community be discovered by businesses searching for their ideal location.