Business leaders share with Fortune Magazine their view of Big Data
Fortune Magazine recently asked a number of business leaders about what Big Data means to them. These leaders provide three great stories for the meaning of Big Data. Phil McAveety at Starwood Hotels talked about their oldest hotel having a tunnel between the general manager’s office and the front desk. This way the general manager could see and hear new arrivals and greet each like an old friend. Phil sees Big Data as a 21st century version of this tunnel. It enables us to know our guests and send them offers that matter to them. Jamie Miller at GE says Big Data is being about transforming how they service their customers while simplifying the way they run their company. Finally, Ellen Richey at VISA says that big data holds the promise of making new connections between disperse bits of information creating value.
Everyone is doing it but nobody really knows why?
I find all of these definitions interesting, but they are all very different and application specific. This isn’t encouraging. The message from Gartner is even less so. They find that “everyone is doing it but nobody really knows why”. According to Matt Asay, “the gravitational pull of Big Data is now so strong that even people who haven’t a clue as to what it’s all about report that they are running Big Data projects”. Gartner found in their research that 64% of enterprises surveyed say they’re deploying or planning to deploy Big Data projects. The problem is that 56% of those surveyed are struggling trying to determine how to get value out of big data, and 23% of those surveyed are struggling at how to define Big Data. Hopefully, none of the latter are being counted in the 64%. . Regardless, Gartner believes that the number of companies with Big Data projects is only going to increase. The question is how many of projects are just a recast of an existing BI project in order to secure funding or approval. No one will ever know.
Managing the hype phase of Big Data
One CIO that we talked to worries about this hype phase of Big Data. He says the opportunity is to inform analytics and guiding and finding business value. However, worries whether past IT mistakes will repeat themselves. This CIO believes that IT has gone through three waves. IT has grown from homegrown systems to ERP to Business Intelligence/Big Data. ERP was supposed to solve all the problems of the homegrown solutions but it did not provide anything more than information on transactions. You could not understand what is going on out there with ERP. BI and Big Data is trying to go after this. However, this CIO worries that CEOs/CFOs will soon start complaining that the information garnered does not make the business more money. He worries that CEOs and CFOs will start effectively singing the Who song, “We won’t get fooled again.”
This CIO believes that to make more money, Big Data needs to connect the dots between transactional systems, BI, and planning systems. It needs to convert data into business value. This means Big Data is not just another silo of data, but needs to be connected and correlated to the rest of your data landscape to make it actionable. To do this, he says it needs to be proactive and cut the time to execution. It needs to enable the enterprise to generate value different than competitors. This, he believes mean that it needs to orchestrate activities so they maximize profit or increase customer satisfaction. You need to get to the point where it is sense and response. Transactional systems, BI, and planning systems need to provide intelligence to allow managers to optimize business processes execution. According to Judith Hurwitz, optimization is about establishing the correlation between streams of information and matching the resulting pattern with defined behaviors such as mitigating a threat or seizing an opportunity.”
Don’t leave your CEO and CFO with a sense of deja vu
In sum, Big Data needs to go further in generating enough value to not leave your CEO and CFO with a sense of deja vu. The question is do you agree? Do you personally have a good handle on what Big Data is? And lastly, do you fear a day when the value generated needs to be attested to?