Powerful analysis of abundant information is transforming the enterprise. Business Intelligence (“BI”) applications provide big data advantages to management teams. They can assess aggregated details to set future directions. BI usage includes micro-segmentation within marketplaces, and controlled experimentation with different strategies applied to different segments to find what works best. These are great endeavors to set general direction from the broad-stroked perspectives of headquarters offices.

In the field, things can get much more nuanced, and less controllable. BI results may be right to direct efforts like Internet marketing and telesales, which conform better to managerial control. But they can be less applicable to the needs of field employees who engage directly with organizations’ most high-value customers. These employees, often distinguished by their autonomous conduct, tend to take real-time actions based on highly specific sets of circumstances that may not map directly to BI perspectives. For example, it could be distracting to expect a salesperson to perform a segmentation exercise about someone while in a meeting with that very party.

Often, to be most effective, salespeople need to be spared complex considerations, and to be be positioned for swift and decisive action. The more real-time and execution-driven basis of field activities contrasts the more forward planning considerations at headquarters.

A key for field employees to benefit from the big data movement is presenting them with suggestions of actions to take, more than presenting them with information to analyze. It is important that these field employees be able to exercise personal judgment in the choices they make — suggestions should be fluidly navigable to cater to the specific user’s context. And over time, each user’s tendencies through their prior actions should factor into presentation of subsequent suggestions, to make them even more effectively activity-oriented.

Actionable analytics is an emergent field in which the capabilities of big data are distilled for field-based use cases. Respect for the capabilities and circumstances of field employees provides them with guidance that enhances their crucial decision making, without getting in their way.