Getting Big Data Ready

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Are you ready for big data? David Kelly of Forbes writes, “jumping on the big data bandwagon can backfire in a very expensive way without a concise blueprint for leveraging, acting on and benefitting from the information.”  So how can you start to prepare?  Today, we will look at tips for developing your strategy as well as how to prepare your team.

First, create a strategy, a clear roadmap, that defines how you plan to implement and use big data as well as what outcomes to expect. Questions to ask:

  • What are my priorities and how will big data serve those?
  • How can we test the waters before plunging in too far?
  • How will big data inform my business decisions?
  • How will my organization handle and process more data volume?
  • What technology solutions are available and what will work best?

Mr. Kelly adds, “in addition, organizations should foster an operational mindset for practicing data-based decision making. They need a company-wide culture that encourages and rewards data usage, positive outcomes and value delivered to the business.” Sujan Patel contributor to Forbes shares these tips to help prepare your team to be more data-driven:

  • Start small. Define and tackle a limited big data project to test the waters and gain experience
  • Address talent issues. Don’t wait and expect trial by fire to work itself out. Instead identify, first, where you are shorthanded in skills and experience and explore opportunities to gain the skills needed
  • Make insights useable. Ensure you produce actionable insights and be open to granting access to multiple types of users, big data just like any data must have a business value

A clear strategy and your people, just like with other business and technology initiatives these two factors are key to define and develop if you wan to turn your big data vision into a successful reality.

Tips to Unlock Big Data Insights

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It is common, according to Bernard Marr of IBM’s Big Data Hub blog, to think that big data success is only about size.  Mr. Marr  points out, “By simply focusing on the size of your data you run the risk of becoming data rich and insight poor. You have huge volumes of information at your fingertips, but no idea what it all means or what to do with it.”  To benefit from  big data you have to gain valuable insights that transform your business, not just amass more data.

Mr. Marr outlines his five-step “Smart Data Framework” to help you best unlock big data insights:

  • Start with a strategy. Determine the problems you want to solve with big data and define the specific questions you have and the data you need to answer
  • Measure metrics and data. Determine where and how you can collect the data you need.
  • Apply analytics. Much of the growth in big data is fueled by unstructured data which can be “messy.” Today there are a number of tools out there that you can use to manage unstructured data
  • Report results. Tell a story suggests Mr. Marr, “if you use data visualization and narratives to tell that story in a focused and interesting way, it’s far more likely people will understand what you are trying to do, and be as motivated as you are yourself about implementing data-driven change.”
  • Transform your business. Keep in mind that change is the end goal and the data is there to help lead the charge

Notice how if you take the first letter from every bullet above you get the word SMART. Just like with data analysis and storage of the past, today, “smart” use of data whether big or small continues to be important.

Do you want to gain more big data experience and discuss the infrastructure considerations for your business in a Hadoop cluster environment? Join us April 23rd for our Big Data Hands-on Workshop with the Evolving Solutions technical team and experts from IBM.

Industry News Round-up: Next-Gen Big Data Analytics

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To keep you on top of the latest and greatest big data technology news, we’ve rounded-up a list of topics in the news. First, read about key priorities that will help facilitate next-generation big data analytics, then why big data can help non-profits and, finally, big data and Oscar picks.

The Big 4 Priorities for Next-Gen Big Data

Scott Gnau of Forbes writes about preparing for the future of big data, “specific advice is tricky, given the variety of applications and use cases out there. So here’s my own attempt to distill things down to four priorities when implementing tomorrow’s big data architectures. Don’t think of these as separate buckets, though. Consider them more like a set of closely interrelated priorities, like signposts along the road to success in creating your own next generation analytics.”  With big data changing fast, he recommends keeping these priorities in mind:

  • Flexibility
  • Access
  • Governance
  • Context

Flexible architectures will help you handle the diverse nature of big data.  Providing access  not only to the data scientists but also to business users is important. When you empower more people, you also need to have governance in place to regulate. Finally, context not only to keep data clean but in some cases protect data privacy.

Big Data and Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations are also looking to use big data reports Ricky Rlbelro for BizTech Magazine.  Nonprofits can not only utilize big data to build and retain membership or to find and attract new donors, but they can also use big data to determine how their services are being perceived in the public and potentially spot issues before they become too big.

Big Data’s Oscar Picks

So the Oscars have wrapped up for another year. We can debate the merits of the winners and wonder why others didn’t make the cut, but how did big data do with its predictions this year. Steven Zeitchik and Oliver Gettell report for the LA Times, “in recent years, Big Data has attempted to turn art into science. This year such efforts are more prolific than ever — and more relevant, with the battle for best picture.” All three of the data companies interviewed for the article had “Birdman” in the lead for Best Picture which did in fact win. The companies took different approaches. One analyzed the voting body and others used combinations of data from past award ceremonies for their predictions. Just another example of how big data is growing in use – mixing art and science in this case.

Industry News Round-up: Big Data and Automakers

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To keep you on top of the latest and greatest big data technology news, we’ve rounded-up a list of topics in the news this week. First, read about how automakers would like to use big data and then is it SQL or no SQL – that is the question.

Ford Jumps on the Big Data “Wagon”
Larry Dignan for ZDNet reports on a recent keynote address by Ford CEO Mark Fields at CES 2015. Turns out Ford is looking for new  and innovative ways to utilize the data it collects.

Mr. Dignan writes, “Ford is obviously aiming beyond the vehicle cockpit. Ford is aiming to become the Apple of the auto industry. It’s not the hardware or software that makes the sale. It’s the integration and intelligence between the hardware and software.”  He also adds Ford is a good example of how every company is turning into a technology company due to data, big data.  Ford has started to experiment with the massive vehicle and driver data it collects. Early plans include analyzing car sharing, vehicle intelligence, driving patterns and insurance to not only improve vehicle automation but also to create smarter roads and cities.

Mr. Dignan notes one challenge that Ford will face in these new initiatives will be connecting big data to the human experience.  What do you think?

Big Data Flip Flop – SQL

Bill Franks writes for Forbes about the current debate buzzing around SQL and non-relational tools.  He sees both SQL and non-relational working side by side in a balanced approach as the best way to approach big data, “Where we will all land is a balanced approach where SQL remains a critical tool for analyzing data, and non-relational analysis is also utilized when appropriate. After all, the goal should always be to solve our business problems in the most efficient way possible.”

He also underscores that non-relational tools are not new.  His opinion is that many businesses just went too far with SQL trying to make it fit every situation. “Just keep in mind that non-relational options have always been available. It isn’t that there was no need for non-relational processing during the first decade of the 21st century.  Rather, companies moved too far toward SQL.  In a case of massive opinion flip-flop, there is now a large movement to enable SQL-like functionality on a wide variety of non-relational platforms, such as Hadoop.”

How does your company use SQL and non-relational tools to answer business questions? Share your thoughts on this debate.

Innovate in 2015 with Big Data

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“When it comes to big data, organizations are feeling the need for speed. Using the cloud as a platform for innovation, companies are rolling out big data and analytics technologies not simply to transform how they engage with customers, but to change how their businesses do business,” writes Glenn Finch on Forbes.

As 2015 gets started how does your company plan to use big data to drive business results? Mr. Finch provides the following insights when it comes to getting started on a big data analytics project:

Big data is not just about your customers it is also about your operations.  40% of the companies surveyed by IBM reported using big data and analytics to manage operations and back office functions more effectively. Mr. Finch points to a healthcare industry example where IBM’s Watson analytics are helping nurses make better decisions.

The payback on investment is quicker than expected.  An IBM study found that 63% of companies surveyed saw a return on their investment within one year and 26% even saw a payback within six months. These findings may be surprising but not so considering the daily news stories about the industry-changing results of well-executed big data projects.

Think beyond volume. In 2015 companies will not solely look to big data to help sort through the volume of data that is collected and stored. Instead, big data will be used as a tool to pull insights quickly to further a company’s competitive edge in the marketplace. As Mr. Finch writes, “velocity, not volume, is driving the impact of big data.”

According to the article, IBM expects demand for data-driven insights to accelerate in 2015. Mr. Finch adds, “big data is providing precise, real-time insight into everything from inventory to sales to employee performance to customer needs. To compete, other organizations need to move from gathering data to quickly acting on insight provided by the data.”