I attended The Big Data Conference in Chicago these past three days and noticed common threads consistently woven through each session and side conversation. First, we’re beyond the questions about what big data means (finally…I heard no V’s for three days). Instead, the conversations centered on where to get started, what approach to take, and how to maximize the value of Big Data. This is a great sign that we’re moving beyond the hype cycle and for some, are on the slope of enlightenment.
Looking for a plan
The second thread is that most of the attendees are looking for a dependable plan. As Big Data moves into the mainstream, the tolerance for expensive big data ‘lab experiments’ is going down and the need to have established patterns is going way, way up. But waiting for someone else to show the way is problematic; plans are only as good as the business model, industry and strategic aims of the organization that proves it out. Especially with big data, which is a very broad phrase that unfairly lumps together an enormous swath of information technology and its application.
Platform approach to Big Data
The third thread came up for the nth time in the panel discussion I had with Seth Grimes of Alta Plana and Chris Norris of Sigma Solutions. We all said in slightly different ways that a platform approach to Big Data was likely to put an organization in the best place to use plug and play software rather than trying to integrate disparate tools from multiple parties. With how fast technology is moving, having to slow down to get the tools to play well together is more costly than resources…it means wasted time.
There is no perfect plan
My takeaway after three days in Chicago is this: Big Data is like saying, “IT.” Big Data has no singular use case nor perfect plan. It requires enterprises to find the business need, assess the data available, and to begin to gather, understand, anticipate and act on what they discover along the way. Great to have a tried and true plan, but if you wait for that, business will pass you by and the cost of being too late to the game is pretty high. As Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” So much for plans…and the marketplace is ‘the ring’. Start small if you have to, but don’t wait for someone else’s plan.