by Grazia Murtarelli, IULM University, Italy
The Industrial Internet revolution linked, for instance, to Big Data issue has totally changed the competitive scenario where modern complex organizations operate. When we talk about Big Data, we focus on the increasing quantity of information about our consumer behaviours that are now available to organizations. If 25% of worldwide information was digitally recorded in 2000, in 2013 the percentage had increased to 98%. This means that all our digital behaviours, transactions, conversations have been registered and could generate data and knowledge valuable for modern organizations (Hilbert, 2013). Future investment in Industrial Internet technology not come as a surprise. According to an empirical research conducted by Accenture and General Electrics (2015), by 2020 such investments will be about $500 billions of the global spending. The reasons seem to be clear. By the means of Big Data, organizations could be abler in detecting issues and monitoring their assets; or in collecting useful insights contributing to improve strategic decision-making processes. In this new scenario, what are the consequences for communication professionals? Which role could they play? Communication practitioners could act as bridge builders, consultants to stimulate proactive attitude or as storytellers able to create stories based on collected data and information.
In the Industrial Internet revolution, communication professionals face four main challenges (Murtarelli, 2016): The first challenge concerns the changing competitive scenario. Big Data represent an important tool for competing in the extant pay-for-performance environment. Being able to collect and interpret open data and digital trends information for improving organizational activities, initiatives, service, or product on time and before competitors could represent a source of competitive advantage for modern organizations.
The second challenge is related to communication professional competences. If the competitive scenario dynamics are changing, communication practitioners are required to acquire specific competences. They are increasingly managing multiple sources of data that could be converted into useful knowledge: Big Data, Topic Data and Small Data. Public Relations professionals need to become able to create stories emerged from the stakeholders’ digital footprints and to give meaning to the huge quantity of information at their disposal.
The third challenge concerns the toolbox at disposal of professionals, which include algorithms and evaluation methods. Public Relations professionals need to exploit algorithms for managing their complex set of activities, both traditional and new ones.
The final challenge is about the role of communicators in the new scenario. Organizations seem to need professionals with specific competences and abilities. Big Data has traditionally been considered a natural field for computer scientists or Information Technology experts, but organizations increasingly require professionals that are able to optimize the collected information and give value to them. Could Public Relations practitioners fulfil such new organizational need and expectation?
Accenture, General Electrics (2015), “How the Industrial internet is changing the competitive landscape of industries”. Accessed May 9, 2016, from Accenture strategy at link
Hilbert, M. (2013). Big data for development: From information-to knowledge societies.
Murtarelli (2016), “The Role of Corporate Communication in the Digital Age: an Era of Change for the communication Profession”, in Klewes, J., Popp, D., & Rost-Hein, M. Out-thinking Organizational Communications, Springer.