Even the best and brightest CIOs are confused about how to deal with Big Data, according to Scott Schlesinger, vice president of Capgemini's North American Business Information Management.
Schlesinger shared a recent CIO symposium antidote. A room full of CIOs from top companies were asked if they had a Big Data problem, and everyone raised their hands, but when asked if they understood what it means and how to address it, everybody lowered their hands.
Perhaps it's time for everybody to take a deep breath and slow down.
"The rush to embrace big data as the new source of actionable knowledge may seem revolutionary, so it would be wise to recall the issues that emerged in previous instances of innovative technologies being rapidly brought into production," advises David Loshin, a data management and BI expert and president of Knowledge Integrity, Inc.
CIOs and other IT leaders would do well to take a step back and read Loshin's recent TDWI Checklist Report, called "Strategic Planning for Big Data Management." Organizations often rush to embrace new technology trends without learning from the past, Loshin points out. This leads to a misalignment between the organization's strategies and culture.
And that's always bad.
So Loshin suggests a different, more meditative approach: Think about what you're doing, where you want to go and focus on integrating Big Data into your (hopefully) existing information technology and governance frameworks.
From Loshin's point of view, that means solving your Big Data problem doesn't start with Big Data - it starts with a discussion of key performance indicators.
"Start planning for BI and analytics with the corporate mission statement and organizational key performance indicators (KPIs)," Loshin writes. "These KPIs provide the strategic perspective from the most senior levels of the organization regarding corporate performance and the potential for improvements. Use these metrics to frame ways to baseline the state of existing processes as well as set future performance targets."
If you already have a robust BI and analytics program, you may roll your eyes at that advice, of course. But let's not forget how often people forget to follow best practices and smart policies when we adopt new technology. (Cough, cough) Cloud, anyone?
The rest of the checklist moves you through the process of mapping Big Data technology projects to business objectives, what you need to consider to ensure Big Data is integrated into your existing BI and analytics systems, rather than siloed, and how to ensure you're building for scaling, reuse and repurposing.
Obviously, this is not a technology how-to. It's not going to tell you how to build a Hadoop cluster or any other technical piece of the puzzle.
But what it is going to do is get IT leaders started on the right strategic path for Big Data. Given that it's a free report, I'd say that's a good deal.