Are You Ready? A Reality Check on Big Data

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The Business Impact of Big Data

Many business executives want more information than ever, even though they're already drowning in it.

We seem to be going through a bit of a reality check with Big Data. What I mean by that is I'm seeing a lot fewer articles oohing and aahing over the wonders of Big Data and the technical issues of connecting with it, but a lot more articles asking "Now what?"

Now we start to talk about Big Data analytics - the practice of putting all this unstructured and big data to real use. I've been collecting articles about this topic over the past few weeks and I thought it'd be worth sharing the pieces that address key components of getting started with Big Data analytics - or at least, thinking through the process.


But, actually, the first thing you need to decide is whether you're really ready for Big Data.


Thomas Redman, the founder of Rumson, N.J.-based Navesink Consulting Group, said in a webcast recently covered by TechTarget:

The hard reality is that for the vast majority of organizations, this is not the time to invest in big data. Most organizations readily admit that they are data rich and information poor, and [if you] don't do small data well, how are you going to do big data well? Under those circumstances investing in big data is just a waste of time and money.

If the data you already have is a mess, with unmastered reference data and silos, then you've got to put your house in order before you even think about adding high volumes of unstructured data at high speeds into your data stores.


"But wait," you say. "My boss' boss is already asking about Big Data. I can't say we're not ready!"


Fair enough. We can all appreciate the dilemma of a CXO who just read a fancy article about the latest technology and now wants to know why IT hasn't done it yet.


Here's what you do: Embrace the hype, advises Steve Sarsfield, author of the "Data Governance Imperative" and product marketing manager of data governance at Talend. Embrace it and use it to push for holistic data management.

The opportunity is for data management pros to think about their big data management strategy holistically and solve some of their old and tired issues around data management. It's pretty easy to draw a picture for management that Big Data needs to take a Total Data Management approach.

Sarsfield says Big Data is a great way to really push on some of those data governance issues that no one wants to touch, such as:


  • Data ownership and accountability
  • Spreadmarts
  • Data tools and a management plan for dealing with unstructured data
  • Governance for data both big and small

Even if you've done all of the above, you should do some due diligence before you jump into Big Data. Rajeev Rawat, CEO and founder of BI Results, recently offered a checklist of action steps IT and strategy managers should take before jumping into Big Data. Writes Rawat:

There are many questions to consider: Are we ready to handle Big Data? Can companies ingest data and present options? Will CIOs leapfrog functionality and integrate the right options? How will organizations manage tiered systems for analytics? Will customers embrace the power of Big Data to extract best options?

What's nice about his checklist is that it's based on roles, so the action items for CIOs are different than those for IT directors or IT professionals. It's a well-thought-out list that will help you think through the strategic issues, as well as the small, tactical problems that are so easy to overlook until it's too late (e.g., "Take leadership role to mentor and guide the team, educate other users.").


You shouldn't pursue Big Data because it's trendy and you want to add a project to your resume, tempting as that may be. Instead, it should be a decision based on an honest assessment of your organization's readiness and need. These articles should help you do a reality check on your organization's ability to move forward with Big Data analytics.