I saw it coming last year. Big data isn’t what it used to be. Not because firms are disillusioned with the technology, but rather because the term is no longer helpful. With nearly two-thirds of firms having implemented or planning to implement some big data capability by the end of 2015, the wave has definitely hit. People have bought in.

But that doesn’t mean we find many firms extolling the benefits they should be seeing by now; even early adopters still have problems across the customer lifecycle. Can your firm understand customers as individuals, not segments? Are analytics driving consistent, insightful experiences across channels? Does all that customer insight developed by marketing make a bit of difference to your contact center agents? If you're like most firms, the answer is, “Not yet, but we're working on it.”

What’s more, firms expect that big data will deliver the goods. In fact, about three in four leaders tell us that they expect big data analytics to help improve and optimize customer experiences. That's a huge expectation!

I think big data is going to be a big letdown when it comes to customer engagement and experience optimization.

Here's why – big data is about turning more data into insight. In fact, our latest data and analytics survey tells me that big data plans are still overwhelmingly an IT department thing. As such, they have fallen victim to supply side thinking – just furnish the data and the technology, “the business” will do the rest. Really?

Big data will not help you:

  • Ensure insights are tested for value against business outcomes.
  • Deliver insights at the point of decision in software.
  • Close the loop between actions, digital reactions, and learning.

You'll need to do these things to move the needle on digital engagement. But big data will not get you there. That’s the paradox.

My colleague Ted Schadler and I are bouncing the idea and language of systems of insight off every business and technology leader we find.

Systems of insight are the business discipline and technology to harness insights and turn data into action.

Systems of insight deliver what big data cannot – effective action through insights-driven software; after all, that’s the only thing firms really care about.

This idea is strongly resonating with business executives who are sick to death of all the IT-led, vendor-inspired big data song and dance.

It is time we, as technology leaders, stop talking about big data and start talking about the insights-to-execution made possible by creating systems of insight that drive our digital businesses.

Join us in the revolution! Ted and I agree that this trend is only just starting and the impact will be huge. Insights masters who get this are going to spank firms that cling to big data and the “data driven” mantra. Guarantee it.

Got an opinion? Keep the conversation going using #SystemsOfInsight or #InsightsToExecution hash tags to @practicingea and @TedSchadler. We are passing more information there every day.