Smart Enterprise Magazine

Volume 8, Number 1, 2014

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B ig Data: It's not just another industry buzzword. While it may be early days for Big Data, IT leaders already realize significant business value can be gained by tapping into large, complex data sets. The catch is that CIOs must also accept and conquer a fear of the unknown when devising their Big Data strategy. Even IT industry experts can't be certain exactly what value can be pulled from volumes of data across companies in various vertical industries, but most are willing to bet there will be a big payoff in the end. "We don't know all the questions Big Data is going to answer for us. We don't know yet what the business value is of all those answers; we don't always know exactly why we're doing this except that we presume there is great value in it," says John Michelsen, CTO at CA Technologies. "The upside is possibly so grand that we cannot ignore it —we have to act." Action is exactly what Big Data requires. Rather than dismissing and/or disposing of huge amounts of data collected across various IT and business systems, websites, social media networks and more, IT leaders must now devise ways to capture, store, mine, analyze and act on the information Big Data holds. That is no small feat, but as early adopters in the field promise, Big Data can be tapped for all its potential resources with the right business and technology strategy. "We have early wins, but it's not a well understood science right now," Michelsen says. "So be opportunistic and learn. Once you've begun to explore Big Data, you'll be glad, but at the same time, you might have to accept that you don't know exactly where you're going at first." Here, industry experts and IT leaders offer insights and experiences to help navigate Big Data. 201 4 • SMART ENTERPRISE 13 BEST PRACTICES TO TAKE ON Industry watchers, CIOs and IT leaders provide insight on how to build the best Big Data approach. Identify the Business Value Big Data initiatives that attempt to make sense of all the data a company is capable of collecting will likely fail early on. Michael Brown, CTO at comScore, a provider of analytics for the digital world, explains that many in IT might be challenged by Big Data at first because it doesn't follow the rigid rules IT generally applies to projects. "Big Data can be a little messy and it doesn't have to be all well-organized," Brown says. "The promise of Big Data is collecting data, creating a platform for people to easily get at that data and pulling business value from it—without such an emphasis on having it all nice and neat in a relational database. Big Data is kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks." Brown recommends collecting data, analyzing a sample of it, finding the business value and using that success to move forward with other Big Data efforts. "Don't try to boil the ocean with Big Data and remember that the biggest thing to be success- ful is not to start the discussion around technology. Talk about the business problem that needs to be solved and back in to the technology from there," he says. Lonne Jaffe, CEO of Syncsort, a Hadoop Big Data integration company, explains that Big Data projects are growing up based on broader, more significant needs from the business. While very early adopters perhaps tapped social networks to capture consumer sentiment, large IT organizations in the healthcare industry today, for instance, are looking to better hone patient care by analyzing treatment data. And financial services compa- nies are tapping Big Data to conduct predictive fraud analysis. "It's important for the technology organization within a large enterprise to talk with the business line before embarking on a Big Data project to identify the highest-value opportunities | By Denise Dubie

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