ture at most companies, according to Gartner’s Beyer and other experts. IT
managers need to be prepared to expand their systems to deal with the ever-expanding stores of structured and unstructured data, they say.
That requires figuring out the best approach to making systems both
extensible and scalable and developing a road map for integrating all of the
disparate systems that will feed the big-data analysis effort.
“Today, most enterprises have disparate, siloed systems for payroll, for
customer management, for marketing,” says Anjul Bhambhri, IBM’s vice
president of big-data products. “CIOs really need to have a strategy in place
for bringing these disparate, siloed systems together and building a system
of systems. You want to be asking questions that flow across all these
systems to get answers.”
Bone Up on the technology
The big-data world comes with a long list of new acronyms and technologies that have likely never graced a CIO’s radar screen.
Open-source tools are getting most of the attention; technologies like
Hadoop, MapReduce, and NoSQL are being credited with helping Web-based giants like Google and Facebook churn through their reservoirs of
big data. Many of these technologies, while now available in commercial
forms, are still fairly immature and require people with very specific skills.
Other technologies that are important to the big-data world include
in-database analytics, columnar databases and data warehouse appliances.
IT managers and their staffs will need to understand these new tools to
ensure that they’ll be able to make well-informed big-data decisions.
Prepare Your Staffs
Whether they need Hadoop experts or data scientists, most IT organizations are sorely lacking the talent necessary to take the next steps with big
data. Analytic skills are perhaps the most crucial, and that’s the area where
most IT staffs have the biggest gaps.
McKinsey projects that in the U.S. alone, there will be a need by 2018
for 140,000 to 190,000 additional experts in statistical methods and data-analysis technologies. The job titles that will be in demand will include the
widely hyped emerging role of data scientist.
In addition, McKinsey anticipates a need on either the business or tech
side of the house for another 1. 5 million data-literate managers who have
formal training in predictive analytics and statistics.
For some companies, especially those in less populated areas, staffing
will likely be one of the more challenging aspects of a big-data initiative.
“[Big data] definitely requires a different mindset and skills in a host of
areas,” says Rick Cowan, CIO at True Textiles, a Guilford, Maine-based
contract manufacturer of interior fabrics for the commercial market.
“As a medium-sized business, it’s been a challenge to be able to get staff
and keep them up to speed with the ever-changing environment,” says
Cowan. To address the need, he has begun to retrain programmers and
database analysts to get them up to speed on advanced analytics.
IT department heads will have to do some transforming of their own to
excel in this brave new world. While the best tech leaders of the past have
been part information librarian and part infrastructure engineer, the IT
managers of the future will be a combination of data scientist and business
process engineer, says Gartner’s Beyer.
“CIOs have been used to managing infrastructure based on a given instruction set from the business, as opposed to a CIO that is able to identify
the opportunity and therefore push towards innovative use of information,” he explains. “That’s the transformation that needs to happen.” u
Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported
on business and technology for more than 20 years.