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  IN THIS ISSUE                                       July 2014

To the Point

Is Big Data a Big Deal?

Dave Kanicki, Executive Editor


During the preparation for Farm Equipment’s most recent webinar — Using the Power of Data to Transform Your Dealership — someone likened the subject of “Big Data” to the concept of sabermetrics depicted in 2011 film Moneyball.

If you saw it, you know that it was based on Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s use of sabermetrics to put together a low-cost, yet competitive baseball team. Sabermetrics (Society for American Baseball Research) has been defined as the analysis of baseball statistics that measure “in-game” activity. It places less emphasis on the conventional statistics like batting average, runs batted in and stolen bases, and drills down to things like on-base and slugging percentages.

Because much of baseball paid little attention to these stats at the time, Oakland found that by scrutinizing this data and finding talented players who excelled in these areas — but who were undervalued — they were able to successfully compete against wealthier competitors.

While much of Moneyball focuses on the Big Data part of Beane’s success, the real story lies in the analytics involved. One of the webinar presenters, John Andersen of PFW, describes using analytics as “finding things you didn’t even know you were looking for.” In other words, analytics is about discovery.

But it all starts with data. The other webinar presenter, Alvin Wong of Logi Analytics, calls data the “raw material of the digital era.” He says the phenomenon of Big Data is all about how data is generated, acquired, analyzed and ultimately shared.

What sets Big Data apart from the management reports most of us work with daily are the last two: analysis and sharing.

Andersen clearly made the distinction between “reports” and “analytics” during the webinar. “Reporting is typically about answering a question,” he said. “Analytics is about asking new questions and discovering relationships in the new data.”

Wong adds, “Analytics is about discovering a deeper level of insights and patterns from data; things that may not be obvious. The opportunity to apply data and analytics is all around us.”

According to both presenters, “socializing” the data is just as critical as acquiring and analyzing it so it can be shared in such a way that it leads to decisions. The answer, they say, is through visualization (e.g., charts, graphs, etc.) so that it can be processed quickly and accurately.

If you want to get into more of the detail, the complete webinar is posted on the Farm Equipment site at

Is Big Data a big deal? It will be for those who choose to use it to the fullest. But it will still rely on someone — a champion — within your organization with the knowledge and experience (also known as wisdom) to understand and apply the data to your specific business and your cus-
tomer’s specific needs.

And if you remember in Moneyball, to make sabermetrics work for the A’s, Beane’s biggest battle was with the established baseball scouts who insisted on using their traditional approaches to player selection.

To make Big Data work in your dealership, you’ll need to get past your “traditionalists” or maybe even your own traditions. Sharing the data, also required to make it work, could also establish a new tradition for some dealers.

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