Just Exactly How Do You Get Started With Big Data?

Big data is powerful, but how does one get started using it?
Big data is powerful, but how does one get started using it?
Image Credit: Ron Mader

The world of IT is often filled with buzz words that draw the attention of CIOs because of all of the discussions that surround these new words. Right now, “big data” is one such buzz word. that everyone is saying is critical to the importance of information technology. As a CIO you may have been attracted to what everyone says the benefits of using big data are. However, there’s a fundamental question that you are going to have to answer before you can find out what big data can do for your company: you need to find out how you start to use big data.

How Can A Company Start To Use Big Data?

Sure, if you read the articles that are all over the trade rags right now, you might be tempted to go out and purchase some type of big data software, perhaps a database that has been optimized for big data, or maybe even more storage so that you’ll have some place to put all of that big data. However, all of these things would be the wrong thing to do. Instead, what you are going to want to do is to sit down and take a census of the data that you already have. Only by knowing what data you already have on hand will you be able to make the necessary decisions for how you want to move forward.

Once you know what data you already have, it’s time to move on to the second question that you’re going to have to find an answer to: “what data should the company have?” There will always be gaps in your data collection – no company starts out collecting everything that they really need. You will now want to put IT programs in place to acquire the data that you’ve identified as being missing. Once you have everything that you need, you are going to have to start asking questions about the assumptions that people in your company are making about customers, markets, and competitors. Once you understand these assumptions, you’ll need to ask yourself if you can validate them with the data that you now have access to.

How you go about using big data is going to greatly depend on just exactly what your company’s business objectives are. Now that you have all of the new data that you need, you’re next job is to figure out how you can make the best use of it. You need to understand that if you continue to do things the way that you have been doing them, then you are just going to get the same results. Instead, what you are going to want to do is to use new big data techniques to process your new data in order to be able to make new decisions that can lead to more business for the company.

What Is The Role Of A CIO In A Big Data Project?

Assuming that you have identified the data that your company currently collects, you’ve identified the data that you need to start to collect, and you now know what assumptions that you’ve been making need to be tested, it sure looks like you are ready to launch a big data project. This will now lead to the inevitable question of just exactly what the role of the person with the CIO job should be in such a project?

The experts agree, on a big data project things have to be run in a top-down fashion. There are just too many different decisions that will have to be made in order to do it any other way. A big data project is not something that a person in the CIO position can delegate. The results of this project may have a big impact on the company’s strategic future and so you are going to have to be the person in charge of it.

The good news for you is that most big data projects are not all that complicated. Yes, there is a lot of data involved and organizing and processing that data can be quite a technical challenge. However, the actual processing is fairly straightforward. What’s actually going to be happening is a great deal of counting, averaging, and normalizing of data. You are trying to tease an answer out of the data and more often than not a simple graph will help you to do this. As long as you are asking the right questions, then big data can provide you with the answers that you are looking for.

What All Of This Means For You

Just about anywhere that a CIO turns today they are going to run into the buzzword of the day: “big data”. The promise of big data is very enticing; however, CIOs are all facing the same challenge. Nobody seems to have a clear idea how to get started with a big data project.

If you want to dive into big data, the very first thing that you are going to have to do is to take an inventory of what data your company is currently collecting. The next step will be to determine what data you are going to need that you are not currently collecting. Once you have all of the data that you’ll be needing, you need to sit down and determine what assumptions about markets, customers, and competitors your company is making. Your next step will be to launch a big data project that can test these assumptions. As the CIO you’ll need to stay involved in this project.

Big data is simply a way to make use of all of the data that every company is already collecting. As the CIO it is your job to find a way to get the answers that the rest of the company needs in order to be successful. By preparing and launching a big data project, you can get the answer that they need. Just make sure that you prepare correctly and stay involved.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How much of your time do you think that you can devote to a big data project?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I suspect that by now just like most CIOs you have heard a great deal about the promises offered by cloud computing and if you have not already taken the plunge and dived into cloud computing, then at least you have a plan to do so in the near future because you understand the importance of information technology.. However, the folks who have gone before you have a message for you: cloud computing is undergoing some changes and you need to be aware of them before you commit too fully to this new computing paradigm.