This is part ten of a ten-part series of Direct Marketing trends for 2013. To read the original article with all ten trends, click here.

In 2012, you couldn't turn more than a couple pages into a program at a direct marketing conference or sit through more than 10 minutes of a session without reference to Big Data. More and more reference is being made about how to make data action-oriented. Virtually every theme aforementioned in our "Ten Trends" series has roots or challenges related to data volume, velocity and variety. Future success in leveraging Big Data starts with laying a strong foundation now. Businesses that will successfully leverage Big Data will start by building a Big Data infrastructure of lasting value with investments in human resources. Talented and imaginative people with the passion and initiative to build and grow something new and challenging will be the cornerstone of future success. Finding the right skill-sets to build your Big Data initiative will be top priority in businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve in harnessing the power of Big Data. 

Look for forward-thinking companies to construct a Big Data team that has vision for the future while at the same time are practical and grounded with the ability to break a monumental task down into smaller components that can be tackled and accomplished. Because of the scope, and subsequent scope creep, of many Big Data corporate initiatives, it is far too easy to get stuck in planning paralysis, overthinking and planning things without taking real action. A Big Data team should be a cross-functional team consisting of IT, Business Intelligence, Customer Intelligence, Marketing, Operations, and Finance. It is very easy to get bogged down with the magnitude of the vast potential of Big Data. Companies cannot afford to make the mistake of spending months and months in meetings and project planning without executing initiatives that will positively impact the bottom line and take them in the direction they want to go. Moving forward on smaller, more manageable sub-projects while building out the optimal end game will be a signature component of successful management of Big Data initiatives. 

Expect corporations to focus more time determining and prioritizing what data to store and how it should be stored. Businesses should take the time to consider if they need it and how they will use it. The importance of strong data architecture cannot be over emphasized in building out Big Data platforms. Again, this takes talented and forward thinking people with the training and skills to build the infrastructure on which the tools will be deployed. Flexibility and adaptability will be critical as the pace that Big Data evolves will be challenging to keep up with.

Far too often, the focus is on investing in the tools to leverage Big Data without enough emphasis being placed on the people needed to build the foundation and appropriately leveraging the tools to maximize return on investment. The business model of the coming 25 years will be very different from the business model of the past 25 years. In the past, the model for tools and skill-sets was fairly stagnant. Being an expert in a handful of tools was the objective. In the future, the ability to be an early adopter, adapt quickly, have a steep learning curve, and abandon quickly as new technology is available will be the skills of your most valuable human resources.

Finally, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your Big Data initiatives. In 2013, we will be laying the foundation for literally decades of future growth.