The Myth of the Big Data Switch

People who believe in immediate returns are sorely mistaken.

More and more organizations have jumped on the Big Data train the 18 months since the publication of Too Big to Ignore. There’s a reason that Hadoop enabler Hortonworks recently announced $100M in additional funding. This currently values the company at a cool $1 billion. Not exactly WhatsApp, but not too shabby either.

Some argue that that eye-popping valuations like these prove that we’re in a tech bubble. Maybe, but I don’t think so—at least not with Big Data. Mark my words. In a few years, it will no longer be the sole purview of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter, and other multibillion-dollar behemoths. I firmly expect greater adoption from progressive mid-market organizations and even small businesses. Organizations are going to need plenty of help in this regard. They can’t do it alone.

Big Data: Not a Weekend Hackathon

Does mean that organizations can immediately take advantage of vast troves of unstructured data in in any meaningful way? In short, probably not. It just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps the key question is: What’s your model going to be?

Beyond that, relatively few organizations possess the requisite tools to effectively handle Big Data, never mind the internal expertise. Making sense out of Big Data is going to take some time.

Why can’t organizations just use existing data-management tools?

This seems like a logical question. When it comes to unstructured data, relational databases and business intelligence (BI) applications are simply not built to house, retrieve, and interpret petabytes of unstructured data.

Sure, text analytics may manifest some quick hits, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Generally speaking, Big Data is different on many levels than ERP and CRM “projects.” To paraphrase The Who, the old boss isn’t the same as the new boss.

Simon Says: With Big Data, it’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Even a skilled and experienced partner doesn’t activate Big Data over a weekend, a month, or even a quarter.

Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google, and others are in such powerful positions today because each realized a long time ago that this stuff matters. They then each actually did something about it. Years later, each has has effectively accumulated significant advantages over their peers. None of this happened over the course of a few months or even a year; we’re talking about a decade or more.

I question whether most CXOs understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. Even with the help of a skilled and experienced partner, an organization doesn’t “activate” these types of tools; it is the antithesis of a weekend hackathon. Put differently, there’s no magic “Big Data switch.”

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 IBM sponsored this post.

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