The essential points we’ve learned so far in this series is that in order to retain a competitive edge in the global digital economy, CIOs, CTOs, and other IT business leaders today need to desperately leverage the emerging technology focus areas inscribed in what is known as the “Nexus of Forces.”
We’ve already discussed Social and some of its implications for business, so let’s turn now to explore the world of Information – otherwise known as Big Data.
Big Data is Huge!
We recently wrote a series on Big Data, covering in some detail the major contours of this movement and why it’s such a big deal for businesses. But it deserves repeating here that the field of Big Data is a huge boom to business and it’s only continuing to grow exponentially in size and demand. So what does this really mean in practical terms for the CIO or CTO who has settled the “not if but when” question on developing a Big Data strategy? After all, the hardest part of the process can be taking that first step.
The best advice is to start small and modest and then scale up accordingly. Don’t get overwhelmed with the size of your “Big Data” problem and the complex sets of tools needed to address it. Rather look at Big Data as an opportunity. Begin by gathering a team of key thought leaders in your organization – business and financial analysts, project managers, programmers, statisticians, DBAs – who can provide insights into the business strategy side of the Big Data question. For additional resources, ask HR for additional talent acquisition in the area of Data Science and Advanced Analytics. In particular, ask them to look for graduates from the growing number of Master degree programs in Analytics that are emerging on the market.
The role of Data scientist – involving an amalgamation of skills in math, statistics, computer programming, and engineering – has quickly become one of the most sought after jobs on the market today and it appears that demand will only continue to increase.
Once you’ve assembled your Big Data Team, begin by identifying a set of use cases and business problems where your company data can be used to build better insights, leading to more efficient operations, reduced costs . . . and ultimately, increased sales. Resources such as Serendio provide a good starting point for exploring use case examples of how different industries are using Big Data to reduce their overhead and drive sales.
One of the major challenges in Big Data management is not so much the data analysis component, but identifying the data sets and preparing the data for integration (dealing with multiple data sources, increasing performance and scale, enabling real-time access). Many organizations have large and disparate data warehouses that make this process very complicated. Hadoop and NoSQL are some of the most powerful and popular Big Data tools on the market, but organizations may find that they do not need to start analyzing massive amounts of data. Instead, your organization can either choose from a growing number of free data visualization and analytics tools on the market, or else many excellent enterprise platforms such as Splunk, SAS, and SAP . . . to name but a few.
Big Data is a central part of the Nexus of Forces that business leaders need to leverage in order to stay competitive in today’s global economy. While the task of implementing a Big Data strategy may seem daunting, by following the recommendations above CIOs and CTOs will take the first deliberate steps towards leveraging their untapped data resources to cut costs, drive sales, and produce growth.
In the next part of this series we will address the third segment in the Nexus of Forces – Cloud. This discussion will provide valuable insights for how CIOs and CTOs can (and must!) urgently align and adapt to the reality of the cloud as a primary differentiator in the global market economy.