The value big data can add to a business can no longer be ignored, say specialists in the booming area of tech.
Ed Hyde, chief executive of Qrious, said at this morning's PwC Herald Talks: Big Data event that most businesses still don't have a data plan or a person designated the head of data.
As businesses increasing digitalise their operations much larger data sets can be collected. These can be analysed to show trends and associations, which can then be used to improve productivity.
Hyde said many small to medium New Zealand businesses still thought harnessing the possibilities for value in these data sets was too specialised and costly.
In reality, starting with a small data set and a small gain was achievable, Hyde said.
"I'd advocate against that old mindset. It's about being able to create value in a number of weeks and months, then building up."
Businesses needed to be "agile", Hyde said, to harness the $4.5 billion estimated additional value to New Zealand's economy.
"The pace of change and the value creation opportunity for big data is you can either harness this opportunity or you'll be left behind."
Big data has been used across the private and public sector to improve customer experience and create better value for organisations.
Hyde said data sets that showed levels of traffic and accidents had been analysed by Qrious to make a profile of congested areas for transport agencies.
Bid data analysis in the agriculture, viticulture and tourism sector posed opportunity for a sector that would contribute significantly to New Zealand's GDP, Hyde said.
"There's no reason why we can't create huge intellectual value and property that we can take to global markets."
Pieta Brown, chief analytics officer for Lab360, said the private sector should emulate the public sector's investment in big data.
She said in the private sector, big data and analytics typically comes from marketing budget, when it should be part of the foundation of the company.
I think that as time goes on there's going to be understanding about what the rules of the game are in terms of managing the data about people that everyone's collecting.Vince Galvin, Statistics NZ
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Vince Galvin, chief methodologist at Statistics New Zealand, said for the past four years the government has been implementing integrated data analysis for all the interactions a person has with government.
People had concerns about the privacy implications of this initiative, Galvin said.
"I think that as time goes on there's going to be understanding about what the rules of the game are in terms of managing the data about people that everyone's collecting."
Chief executive of WhereScape, Michael Whitehead, said New Zealand business could see some failures by organisations that have moved to adopt a big data approach.
"Companies are moving into spaces that they're not very good in... trying to do it yourself is hard," he said.
He encouraged businesses to see how big data can be leveraged in small, contained situations, or use consultants like Qrious.
Rachel Harrison, head of analytics at Data Insight, said companies needed people who were not solely experts in statistics or computer programming, but could communicate their findings.
"They really need to be able to problem- solve and be technical with the data."
New Zealand business needs to be working with education providers to make sure there were enough people to fill the positions advertised, Harrison said.