Mark Armstrong, managing director of EMEA, Progress, asks if the industry is focusing on the wrong aspects of big data
Too many column inches focus on the size and speed of data while almost completely ignoring the most important aspect of a modern big data strategy: data variety.
Variety of data is crucial to getting the fabled 360 degree view of a business and the channel needs to ensure it is putting variety at the heart of its data offering.
A company might have terabytes of data and lightning fast processing times but it’s basically just a fancy engine without any fuel unless it can incorporate a range of different, unstructured data. To gain maximum, value applications and data initiatives will be plugging into disparate sets of information (social, geographic, financial, search, customer data) and then display the insights in one place.
For example, think of a global courier. What they do is relatively simple – they get parcels from point A to point B. However, to do this efficiently on the massive scale required in a competitive industry is anything but simple.
Managers at couriers want full visibility of their customers and of parcel journeys, and they need to see it all in one place. That means that they need a platform that is sucking in all kinds of data, all of which may impact a delivery or customer decision: Salesforce information, location data, customer history, procurement pricing, traffic, weather, vehicle details, insurance premiums and so on.
It’s worth remembering that not only will there be different kinds of data but where and how it’s stored will be just as varied. Data will be stored on-site, within sales apps, off-site, in the cloud or even through live feeds as they come in. It will also arrive from different departments which each have their own processes.
Develop anywhere, deploy everywhere
Getting all those data points from all those places, in one easily digestible interface, is the real big data challenge. It’s only once that has been achieved that the manger can make a truly informed decision about what prices she should offer a customer and what promises can be made on delivery times.
One final complication is that many data vendors lock in customers. So, applications may be set up to make it deliberately difficult for data sets to communicate with other date sets. It’s exactly this complication that presents such an interesting proposition for the channel. Rather than focusing on the speed and size of big data, the channel should be focusing on solving the variety problem, as this is the key that unlocks real value for business.
The channel should be putting together a compelling package that includes a high performance data connectivity layer in the data stack. A service that sits between the user and all that disparate data. Think of it like a translator to turn any number of different languages into one easily understandable monologue. I believe that channel players who can include this facility will be able to differentiate themselves from the majority who are obsessed by size and speed. Not only that, but those customers who can take advantage of this approach will be one step ahead of their competitors.
Forget volume and velocity, real big data value is all about variety.
This was first published in April 2014