05 Feb 2015

The pains and pleasures of digital in business

What impact does ‘big data’ have on the role of marketing in generating and increasing profits? Local businesses explored the challenges that ‘big data’ and digital have created for businesses in identifying markets and targeting their customers at an event recently.

Hosted by The Open University Business School (OUBS), the first in the series of Business Network Breakfast Briefings for 2015 was presented by Professor of Marketing and Director of the Institute for Social Marketing (ISM-Open), Sally Dibb. Entitled ‘Big data’ and Digital: The Pleasures and Pains of Segmenting Markets, the Breakfast Briefing introduced business managers to the changing role of marketing in the digital age and presented research, which revealed the disruption that industry professionals face in making ‘big data’ and digital work for them.

Professor of Marketing at the OUBS, Sally Dibb, said:

“There has been huge hype about developments in ‘big data’ and digital, which have been billed as a panacea for managers seeking the latest customer insight. Our research reveals the disruption that managers face as they seek to benefit. For some, big data is disempowering and overwhelming.

“One senior manager said that big data has made him doubt his intuitive understanding of his customers. Another commented that he doesn’t know who his customer is any more. In the words of a third senior manager: ‘There is more and more data in this day and age but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is more insight. You get drowned in numbers.’”

Martin O’Hara, National Strategy Manager for the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision at Cranfield University, who attended the Breakfast Briefing, said:

“Big data is undoubtedly an important element for any business or organisation to consider in ensuring the growth and sustainability of their business; however, it is clear from the research presented by Professor Dibb that it can be overemployed and if not interpreted effectively, can be as confusing as it is illuminating.”

The Business Network brings together academics from The Open University Business School, with different areas of expertise, and business practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds. The Breakfast Briefings offer a space to share experiences with other local managers both face-to-face and via the dedicated website.

Researchers from The Open University’s (OU) Knowledge Media Institute (KMI) have also established the European Data Science Academy (EDSA) – a new online platform for training European data scientists. EDSA will support businesses and organisations across the EU to meet the urgent demand for professionals with the skills to manage ‘big data.’

For a free place at the next breakfast briefing, contact the OUBS Business Network via

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