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Big Data: 5 Reminders to Keep It Real

Avi KalderonIn this special guest feature, Avi Kalderon of New Vantage Partners believes that for most businesses, it’s not too late to do it right. He provides five essential reminders to keep you grounded as you aim high with Big Data. Avi Kalderon heads up NewVantage Partners’ Big Data Fast Track program, the result of three years of Big Data strategy and execution with more than a dozen Fortune 1000 and industry leading clients. He has extensive experience as a business leader and technology executive, most recently as senior VP of the architecture and advanced technology group for FINRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority), the largest independent securities regulator in the US.

Like many phenomena with huge promise and far-reaching implications, the line between Big Data fact and fiction can be a bit blurry. Businesses rushing to compete can collide with providers rushing to sell, flattening some core truths about Big Data – and businesses’ ability to anticipate those challenges for maximum rewards.

For most businesses, it’s not too late to do it right. Here are five essential reminders to keep you grounded as you aim high with Big Data.

1. It’s Not Free

The promise of free open-source platform is highly inaccurate.

While the core software is indeed free, most enterprises need to add enterprise capabilities in the form of security, governance and support contracts.  These are all being sold as commercial offerings ‘on top’ of the free software.  We’ve seen this in the past with many open-source software movements, such as Linux, MySQL, etc., and we need to remember those lessons now.

2. It’s Not Cheap

While the base software and commercial enterprise offerings may be cheaper than your typical enterprise database from Oracle or IBM, the bulk of the cost shifts to the people category.

Talent is hard to find and even harder to keep, which makes it an expensive play. Unlike software and hardware where costs get depreciated and reduced over time, people costs only go up.

3. It’s Not Easy

Media makes Big Data sound very easy – download, install, load data and great insights will come.

The truth is that integrating Big Data technology into the enterprise is not as easy as it sounds. Introducing a whole new technology stack and new ways to manipulate data disrupt the organization. Cultural resistance is cited as the number one impediment to adopting Big Data.

Organizations have enjoyed the slow, undifferentiated stability of traditional database vendors and some have difficulties adjusting to the dynamic, rapidly progressing and radically different nature of the new Big Data, Cloud and IoT platforms.

Your organization’s culture is either open-minded and up for the challenge or is stuck in the mindset that the solutions you have in place today will suffice — in which case you will fail.

4. But it’s Worth It

Despite all of these difficulties, Big Data is still worth it. Done correctly, it helps an organization shift its capital investment from expensive server and software costs that merely store data to people who understand data.

While the need for automation is still very much alive, Big Data dramatically reduces the cost, empowering analysts with unprecedented access to data sets that were previously either impossible to store and analyze or to understand without software development skills.

Organizations that have looked beyond the promise of “free and cheap” report that they are now able to access insights buried in their data to an extent which was never before possible. The main reason is that they could afford to hire analysts and data scientists to look at their data. Before, the IT infrastructure alone would have choked their budgets.

5. Balancing the Facts

In this early phase of Big Data, some conclusions stand out:

Look beyond immediate savings.  Don’t believe the gospel that open-source software is free; unless you are an early stage startup, the cost of making open-source enterprise friendly is always there.

Consider Big Data technology not because of the IT cost savings, but because it shifts IT costs to investment in business empowerment and top line results.

 

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