Big Data comes of age – but start small

There is a shift in the world of big data. That is if you believe the first three speakers at the TM Forum’s Big Data in Focus event in Amsterdam. It seems that the two tectonic plates of most businesses – the technical and the business – are crunching together.

The Global Head of Business Transformation at Skype, Yuval Dvir, believes that the journey should start by using data to “test a hypothesis.” This seems to be quite a common theme – start small, prove the benefit then scale (with the budget holders and finance guys on your side).

Dvir also believes that big data is about rhythm. The data and the business it is supporting should be in sync. If you do it right, then using data across the business will become ‘business as usual.’ When your CEO can explain the benefits of big data and how it supports the company’s strategy then you know you have achieved something.

This theory is supported by Steffen Krause, Technical Evangelist, Amazon Web Services. His theory is that there should be a working partnership between both sides of the business. Or, as he says, “not everyone is a data scientist. You don’t want your marketing department writing database queries.” And Krause, as you would expect, is an evangelist for the cloud, as well as Amazon Web Services. With the cloud, “everything that was a limited resource now becomes a programmable resource,” because instead of having to sign off on a huge investment to test a theory you can “turn off the cost when you turn off the resources.” Without having to justify an investment ‘up front,’ you foster innovation.

Getting a business case approved is a recurring theme and the difficulty will not go away soon. But with cloud, many of the issues do. Phil Radley, Chief Data Officer at BT reinforces the consensus so far – start small. Do a ‘proof of concept’, prove your point, then get the funding to expand.

It is, also, of course, about culture and changing that is even more difficult than getting a business case approved. At telcos such as BT, they still think like, well, telcos. Even Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, agrees with that, as her recent Davos diatribe against the digital dinosaurs proves. “Frustrating your customers, and frustrating the economy’s need for connectivity, is not sustainable,” she said, not very calmly one would imagine.

This is reflected by non-telcos. As Dvir, from Skype says, “frequent, unnecessary changes (those dreaded re-orgs) sabotage support for initiatives like big data.”

Oh, and one thing is now official – Excel is the best business intelligence tool, bar none. Everyone uses it – and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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