Lee Blackstone, CEO, Blackstone & Cullen, Inc.
What do you get when you put a CEO and a data scientist in the room together? Not much – they don’t speak the same language and there is very little common ground for understanding, but they both need each other. To pick the one Big Data trend with the maximum impact is subjective at best and will be different for different organizations’ needs. There is a shift in approach to solving big data problems. Historically, the answer has been to save all the data in something like Hadoop and then discover the key nuggets that make a difference. Leading organizations now understand that a deep domain knowledge is necessary for their data scientists to be successful. My favorite analogy is the ground hog hunter in Montana. If I am going to hunt ground hogs in Montana, I want to know where the ground hog holes are because there is a much higher probability there are ground hogs present. Do I really care what the guy on the Southwest 737 flying at 30,000 feet above the hunting area is having for lunch? Still part of the data environment we can examine for causality or correlation, but realistically not likely to have any impact on my success in hunting ground hogs. The premise is to have an idea of what you are looking for before you start the quest so you don’t waste a lot of time going down the groundhog holes.
“There is a delineation of the guy who has the domain knowledge, can talk to the CEO, understands big data and analytics, business process and can explain to the technical SAS modeler or Hadoop jock,what needs to be done”
There is clearly a delineation of the guy who has the domain knowledge, can talk to the CEO, understands big data and analytics, business process and can explain to the technical SAS modeler or Hadoop jock, what needs to be done and the guy who just knows how to build models. It is like having a functional SAP consultant and having an ABAP programmer – they are both necessary to be successful.
We have been in business for 26 years and have done projects in virtually every industry in the world. We have also done near real time solution delivery which is very different from most companies. When we show up “the missiles have launched” and we believe we have to have an actionable solution in about 30 minutes or at least know what we are going to do. With one of our major customers, where we have been engaged in big data for the past 13 years nonstop, we have complete development / deployment cycles of 10 days and an SLA on really important mission critical scenarios, that if a request is made by 9 am, 90% of the t i m e w e can deliver the solution worldwide by noon the same day. That is a completely different way of working from most organizations.
Blackstone and Cullen’s competitive advantage is extremely rapid response to hideously complex problems across 50 or so back end data sources. One of their major clients is a large global software company and their senior director of solution delivery Patrick C. says, “I have worked with Blackstone and Cullen nonstop for 7 years and every single project has been on time and on budget. Why not use B+C?
Patrick C. is the beneficiary of one of our most important KPI’s. Over the 26 years we have been in business, over 80% of our customers have been promoted or bonused as a result of the solution we deliver.
If I had to pass along advice to an organization beginning the Big Data Journey, I would suggest finding a consulting company that has done this 25 or 30 times with real experience in the end to end solution as well as a solid domain knowledge of your business. Recognize that a pretty dashboard is not always correct. Quickly pulling data and aggregating it in a front end tool is great for prototyping but not for a production system that needs to pull from 20 or 30 data sources. There are also serious considerations for cleaning the data and master data management. We have perfected this over the years ensuring that only clean data makes it into the repository. Our experience has shown that if you have over 5 data sources feeding your data warehouse or repository, it will fail at least once a day. Making the data aggregation engine industrial strength is crucial to your success, don’t get fooled by shiny objects!
In the end, it’s about the people. In Big Data Analytics there is not much room for anyone but “A Players” with deep domain knowledge. Are they really hard to find? You betcha! Are they worth their weight in gold? You decide!
Since 1989, we have been delivering best of breed and highly customized technology and consulting solutions to the world's leading brands. At Blackstone + Cullen, we take our clients on a data journey bringing the art of global business and the science of data together to acquire data, then, analyze, report, predict and prescribe what “Success” looks like. We speak global business as taken from Blackstone’s extensive experience and his book Manage Globally Sell Locally and combine with those with the data science expertise driven by Frank Cullen, PhD IEOR to derive and drive results for our global clients.
Blackstone + Cullen has worked in virtually every industry and in organizations the size of GE and Microsoft to Gwinnett County Schools, the State of Georgia, etc. Blackstone + Cullen has earned a wide variety of awards in our history. In 2014 we were named to the Top 100 Big Data Analytics companies in North America by CIOReview.