Avi Kalderon, Big Data and Analytics Practice Leader, New Vantage Partners
As the concept of big data matures, there is a shift underway in how it has socialized and subsequently implemented at all organizational levels. It can make people nervous, but disruptive technologies require openness to disruptive methods like big data selfies.
Consider the Selfie recently introduced as a new concept in photography, where it disrupted how you perceive and prepare yourself for a photo opportunity. In contrast to your family holiday portrait, staged and produced to carefully consider what you wear, how your hair looks until you have it just right, The Selfie gives you an immediate, real-time snapshot of where you stand and how you look in your current surrounding with no preparation required. It may not be pretty or of the highest quality, but it is available to you with very little effort, and gives you real-time authentic feedback of where you stand. You can take as many as you want and the reward is immediate, allowing you to adapt between shots. In addition, that is what businesses need to do with big data.
Companies that employ big data technologies and strategies need to produce rapid views of their business operations without the need to get them correct. The notion of directionally correct information to make just-in-time decisions is quite powerful. Taking the right direction today gives you a much better chance at responding in time than waiting for picture perfect tomorrow. Today you can react in real-time; tomorrow, even if you look much better, may be too late.
IT Resistance and Relearning
One important reason to take these big data selfies is to properly deal with organizational resistance to change, surprisingly enough, often from your IT department.
These are the people you rely on to be innovative, daring, experimental and ahead of the business in all things geeky. Yet, IT has been tamed to submission, both by the business and by external forces such as audits, compliance, privacy, regulators, etc, to only make data that is “pitch perfect” available to their business stakeholders. Over the years, these technologists have become more conservative than management. They have learned to rely on stability, security and engineering practices that were safe and of absolute quality even when safe and stable adds up to rigid and unresponsive. Rapid, disruptive technologies seem unsafe to propose, let alone make available to production users.
This insecurity slows down business’ ability to respond and react to market condition while business users starve for a new edge over the competition. Faced with this pressure, IT has been desensitized to the business’s need for agility and is more sensitive to budgets, reduced complexity and controls. Relearning this process with imperfect, but fast and revealing “selfies” can actually help IT escape from some of this pressure and deliver information more quickly while guiding a better route to success.
Selfies and the New Face of Business Users
To understand the need for these big data selfies, it is important to recognize that succeeding with big data is not about the technology per se; it is about the method and the process through which business and technology engage. Feeling cornered by business demands, technologists are often ‘programmed’ to follow a rigid, sequential process from which they will not escape until they have a perfect solution. However, big data gives them an out as business users can step in.
"The Selfie gives you an immediate, realtime snapshot of where you stand and how you look in your current surrounding with no preparation required."
Big data overturns this process and empowers the end-users with tools that allow them to ‘self-serve’ their data needs and accept imperfections. They refine their models into requirements with the data in front of them. The payoff? Guided by selfies, they can explicitly define the correlation between the quality of the information and the decisions it drives.
The Big Picture
Big data technology is absolutely better, cheaper and faster once businesses learn how to take advantage of these new capabilities. To reach that point more quickly, businesses should take advantage of these big data-enabled, quick snapshots along the way to guide, encourage and start supplying proof. These point-in-time set of progress reports, or “selfies,” then can be shared with management teams—not for use in financially binding statements, but for quicker, smarter decisions along the way. Business users are empowered, IT gains freedom from restrictive processes and businesses find a faster route to a big data payoff. That is a big picture worth taking.