Big Data Is Real Big Immature Opportunity
Big Data promises to transform business decision-making for the better. Yet solution providers and end users say the technology and support processes are largely immature. Vendors need to rethink their Big Data strategies to get to the promised big outcome.
By Larry Walsh
For the past several years, Big Data – or advanced business analytics – has been one of the three pillars of technology transformation. While many vendors are touting the benefits of Big Data and the value of their supporting technologies, solution providers and end users agree that Big Data products and services are largely immature.
Big Data is simply business analytics and intelligence on steroids. Through a combination of advanced software, hardware, and cloud services, Big Data systems can sniff out and analyze huge volumes of structured and unstructured data, and turn raw information into actionable intelligence that leads to better decision-making and reduced exposure to risk.
The power of Big Data is so promising that businesses are pouring huge amounts of money on projects to build next-generation analytics systems. According to MarketandMarkets, total Big Data spending will top $14 billion by 2017, with nearly one-half of those expenditures on professional services. While Big Data is often seen as technology designed exclusively for the enterprise, SMBs are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their own analytics capabilities.
Numerous applications and hardware products are designed exclusively for Big Data processes, but Big Data is also dragging complementary technologies into the sales equation. Big Data is reliant on – well, data – often in large volumes. This means businesses adopting Big Data technology are often investing in new databases, networks, storage, and cloud services. By some estimates, the Big Data drag is responsible for a threefold increase in technology sales.
On the surface, Big Data appears to be a huge opportunity for vendors and solution providers. The support services opportunity alone is worth the investment in developing a Big Data practice.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with several chief information security officers representing several well-known enterprises. Each of these CIOs had implemented a Big Data project within the past 18 months with the intent of making better use of their data, producing valuable intelligence, and facilitating better business outcomes.
While all of these CIOs are getting a lot of value out of their Big Data investments, each reported that the Big Data journey is arduous, at best. Vendors want to sell technology, and their primary focus is moving product that facilitates Big Data processes. Unfortunately, producing an engine that converts data into intelligence isn’t enough. CIOs say the process starts with identifying a desired outcome, cobbling together the required data, and then building the Big Data engine to reach stated goals. It’s a process that almost never comes out of a box ready to go.
Frustrating to CIOs is the difficulty in pulling together the required resources to implement Big Data programs. They spend a lot of their time filtering through sales pitches, evaluating technologies, and identifying resources. While this sounds like a normal planning, acquisition, and implementation process, the CIOs say static engulfing Big Data technologies is exceptionally high. Nothing is as easy or as powerful as vendors claim it to be.
That frustration is shared by solution providers charged with selling and supporting vendors’ Big Data technologies. In The 2112 Group’s 2015 Channel Perceptions report, solution providers gave poor marks to vendors on their Big Data efforts. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best, solution providers gave vendors a 5.96 rating on their efforts to help explain, market, and sell Big Data and business analytics technologies. When it comes to vendors assisting in the implementation and support of Big Data systems, solution providers gave vendors a rating of 5.88.
Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the Big Data space, especially on the vendor side of the equation. However, CIOs tell 2112 that they’re patient and understand that Big Data is an evolutionary, not revolutionary, process. They know true business intelligence and the systems that produce it are built through an iterative process. What they want is a true partnership in building those systems, not just being relegated to the buy side of the sales process.
For solution providers, Big Data will be a huge opportunity, particularly in services. End users – enterprises and SMBs – need guidance on not only the technology but also the process of generating useful Big Data results. For that, vendors need to focus on helping solution providers build repeatable processes that develop into Big Data practices. The result will be an ecosystem of partners that can build better outcomes for their customers, which leads to greater vendor product sales.
The future of Big Data is bright, but more needs to be done to mature the technology, implementation processes, and support systems for everyone – vendor, solution provider, and end user – to feel as though they’re getting the promised value out of their investments.