Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Big Data - and what we'll do with it

The Gartner Hype Cycle
Big Data: it is all just hype until the clouds clear, business users can use it, and customers are served better because of it. When Big Data truly arrives as some products in the enterprise, business decisions will start to be based more on information and insight and less on gut feel (by the highest paid person who trumps everybody else). While we are waiting for the final crescendo of hype, I’d like to consider what we are going to do with all that new information.

Most rational people quietly accept that Big Data is mostly hype right now. Everybody is trying to stake a claim to their chunk of it and the chatter on social channels as marketers try to nurture the term into a real market is a source of big data in itself. The concept only starts being real as forward thinking CIOs focus less on the mundane IT networks and PCs and more on helping the business extract value from all the data they have access to using the tools borne of the hype. That is Big Data - the real use of analyzed data to help make business decisions, not just the technology hype about who has the best Hadoop or in memory database. Don’t know what these terms mean? You are a member of 99.999% of the business population, AKA normal people. Because you shouldn't have to know.

We are still in the early phase of the technology cycle for Big Data. The IBMs, SAPs and HPs of the world are still appealing to very early adopters who have money to burn on acronymic technologies that have yet to be formed into meaningful products with advertising friendly names. By 'meaningful', I want to imply that only a small team of consultants are required to install them and make them do something that regular business users and executives can make use of.

Currently most of the focus of the hype and actual product releases seems to be on the storage, manipulation, analysis and visualization of the data. I've seen little meaningful discussion about what I consider key problems:

  • making information actionable
  • taking business decisions from a concept through actual change
  • providing communication and business records without generating a ton of irrelevant email and wasted report writing along the way

This is where business process management (BPM), customer relationship management (CRM), and case management tools come into play. But not as the tech vendors might have you believe. The value is not purely from the extra data they pump into the system from day-to-day management of customer interactions and employee collaboration.

Of course, having a good insight into your customers and business activities is great. Being able to manage the flood of required decisions coming from future Big Data analysis is equally important. How do you actively handle all the business information coming out of the business? Losing it in email is not the answer. Never actually following up with your newly revealed best customers is just a waste.

Handling the flood of new work emanating from real Big Data analysis should not be yet another chore. This is going to be valuable stuff we never had access to before. Managing the work actively through flexible processes, using tools designed to help people follow up on decisions that need to be made, this is a key component of Big Data. Its not currently the sexy part (for geeks at least). But it is the final component that ensures that all the investment in technology, analysis and experience is not just lost into meaningless email conversations that go nowhere.

Speaking of conversations going nowhere... follow me @consected on Twitter

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Mr. Lenard said...

Excellent post with some great points.

"* making information actionable
* taking business decisions from a concept through actual change
*providing communication and business records without generating a ton of irrelevant email and wasted report writing along the way"

Agreed. Data can only be useful if you can do something with it. Collecting it is the easy part, but having a plan is the difficult part.

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0s0-Pa said...

I also tend to ask for a demo or free trial before I purchase things like human services software and other data management programs.