it,” says Paul Gustafson, director of Computer Sciences Corp.’s
Leading Edge Forum technology programs. “The data was
archived, and it was modeled around business processes, not
modeled as a broader set of core knowledge for the enterprise.
The mantra is this shift from collecting to connecting.”
IT is standing at the forefront of this data revolution, indus-
try observers say.
“This is an opportunity to walk into the CEO’s office and
say, ‘I can change this business and provide knowledge at your
fingertips in a matter of seconds for a
price I couldn’t touch five years ago,’ ”
says Eric Williams, CIO at Catalina
Williams should know — Catalina
maintains a 2.5-petabyte customer-loy-alty database that includes data on more
than 190 million U.S. grocery shoppers
collected by the largest retail chains.
This information is, in turn, used to
generate coupons at checkout based on
To steer organizations into the era
of real-time predictive intelligence,
Williams and other industry watchers
say, tech managers must evolve their enterprise information management architecture and culture to support advanced
analytics on data stores that measure
in terabytes and petabytes (potentially
scaling to exabytes and zettabytes).
“IT is always saying they want to find
ways to get closer to the business — [big
data] is a phenomenal opportunity to do
exactly that,” Williams says.
Rather than waiting for the pieces
to fall into place, savvy IT leaders
should start prepping themselves and
their organizations to get ahead of the
transformation, say analysts such as
Gartner’s Mark Beyer.
Here are the top five actions tech
managers should be taking today to lay
out a proper foundation for the big-data
era of tomorrow.
ing. “There’s a certain push to this coming from people who are
commercializing the technology,” Raden observes.
Smart I T managers will resist the urge to try to drink from
the fire hose, and will instead serve as a filter in helping to
figure out what data is and isn’t relevant to the organization.
A good first step is to take stock of what data is created
internally and determine what external data sources, if any,
would fill in knowledge gaps and bring added insight to the
business, Raden says.
This is an opportunity
to walk into the CEO’s
office and say, ‘I can
change this business.’
Once the data scoping is underway, IT
should proceed with highly targeted projects that can be used to showcase results
as opposed to opting for big-bang, big-data projects. “You don’t have to spend a
few million dollars to start a project and
see if it’s worth it,” Raden says.
Let Business Needs Prevail
You may have heard this before, but
IT-business alignment is critical to an
initiative as huge and varied as big data,
IT analysts say. Many of the initial
big-data opportunities got started in
areas outside of IT; marketing departments, for example, have been tapping
into social media streams to gain better
insights into customer requirements
and buying trends.
While specialists in specific disciplines on the business side may recognize the money-making opportunities,
it is IT’s responsibility to take charge
of the data-sharing and data-federation
concepts that are part and parcel of a
“This is not something IT can go out
and do on its own,” says Dave Patton,
principal information management
industries analyst at Pricewaterhouse-
Coopers. “It will be hard to turn this
into a story of success if [the initiative] is
Early in Catalina Marketing’s big-data
initiative, Williams brought business
managers together with its financial
planning and analysis (FPA) group in a
team effort to make a business case for
information architecture investments.
The business side identified areas where new insights could
deliver value — for example, in determining subsequent
purchases based on shopping cart items or through a next-buy
analysis based on product offers — and the FPA team ran the
numbers to quantify what the results would mean in terms of
enhanced productivity or increased sales.
CIO, CATALINA MARKETING
Take Stock of Your Data
Nearly every organization potentially
has access to a steady stream of unstructured data — whether it’s pouring in from social media
networks or from sensors monitoring a factory floor. But just
because an organization is producing this fire hose of information, that doesn’t mean there’s a business imperative to save and
act on every byte.
“With this initial surge around big data, people are feeling an
artificial need to understand all the data out there coming from
Web logs or sensors,” notes Neil Raden, an analyst at Constellation Research.
Part of that anxiety may be coming from vendors and consultants eager to promote the next big thing in enterprise comput-
Big data initiatives will require major changes in both server and
storage infrastructure and information management architec-