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Big Data Myths...BUSTED

Jen Cohen Crompton

Since Big Data is such a “big” and diverse topic, there are plenty of assumptions, misunderstandings, and confusion surrounding the concept. Through discussions with colleagues, I’ve noticed a few recurring themes, uncertainties and generalizations. I’ve also heard plenty of assumptions and claims…some of which are true and some lack validity. After hearing from industry experts, I’ve compiled three Big Data Myths, which we will bust, to uncover some of the Big Data facts.

Myth One: Big Data is really “BIG.”

When it is stated that big data is really big, that infers that big data translates into a lot of information, more than most companies collect. In that case, this myth is not true at all. At the latest Hadoop conference, big data was defined as any data that cannot fit into Excel, which in reality, is the amount of data most companies collect and store, especially since the rise in social media and the volumes of data collected from those sources.

“Social media releases floods of data that hold massive promises for business – both in terms of branding and opening up new channels to market, in which large populations of consumers are speaking. They’re [consumers] communicating who they are and what they do and do not like. Such a relentless flow of data provides extraordinary levels of feedback and an unrivaled chance for companies to listen to the voices of their customers and target audience(s), garner intelligence, and participate in a collaborative dialogue to boost competitive advantage and new opportunity,” explains Upasna Gautam of MagicLogix.com. [Stay tuned for another post about the link between social media and big data.] Most businesses are using social media outlets for this type of insight and the amount of data collected and needed to be analyzed is considered “big.”

So it isn’t just enterprises who are struggling to manage big data. The general rule – if you have multiple spreadsheets with data, you have big data on your hands. As Margaret Dawson, VP of Marketing for Symform points out, “SMBs also struggle to keep up with skyrocketing data volumes. In fact, a recent data and backup trends survey of SMBs found that respondents average one terabyte to over 500 TBs (1 TB = 1000 GB) of data, with most forecasting data growth of 10-40% over the next year.” Wow.

Myth Two: Big Data makes BETTER analytics.

Is bigger really better? Sometimes, but in the case of big data, it seems that in certain circumstances, bigger is simply bigger and quantity does not always equal quality; the gap occurs in the analysis and translation of the data. It’s [almost] comparable to giving someone a hammer, nails, wood, and all the tools they need to build a house, but without the blueprint, they don’t know what to do and where to start. This means that with our data, we have to be sure we are collecting the valuable data to help solve the most prominent problems – the problems that relate back to our KPIs and bottomlines – and following the right blueprint to get what we need.

Erin Bartolo, Data Science Program Manager at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, agrees and provides a strategy to ensure bigger data turns into something meaningful. “Entertain your inner skeptic by questioning everything from what data are meaningful to how you project your own biases on findings. Without objective, analytical skills, analytics merely backs up our own biases with data,” she advises. She explains that the “whys” and “hows” need to be infused into the data analysis to really find value. She says, “…increasing one’s awareness of data and appreciation of its objectivity reveals insights whether the data is stored in an Excel spreadsheet or in a massive data warehouse.”

So in this case, size doesn’t really matter, unless you need the size of the data to answer the questions that relate back to your ultimate goals.

Myth Three: You need a team of Hadoop engineers and Analytics platforms to be on premise to work with Big Data.

While it is quite a challenge to merge data collected from various sources and analyze the information (and Hadoop professionals could be an advantage), there are other solutions and platforms that can help transform the unstructured data into structured data and merge with business intelligence (BI) tools.

Werner Hopf, CEO, Dolphin believes, “There are compelling [software] solutions to help companies meet those goals, achieve significant savings and performance improvements, and lay the foundation for leveraging SAP HANA – the vehicle for truly maximizing the potential benefits of big data – in the future.” These options can be cost effective and easily navigated by an intelligent, but not expert users.

The other idea of housing analytics platforms on premise is busted by Keith Metcalfe, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at WCI Consulting as he adds, “Integrating and cleansing data to a targeted place for reporting is a core concept behind any enterprise approach to analytics/business intelligence, and there is no technical reason why that target cannot reside in a hosted/SaaS environment. Cloud platforms and analytics tools are great applications for hosted (e.g. Amazon Web Services) or SaaS analytics platforms (e.g. SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand). Having said this, core to the topic of SaaS and hosted environments is that an organization sees value in replacing IT infrastructure, as this is where the financial return justifies the cost of investing in such environments.”

Two last pieces of big data management advice from Hopf, “From a data management perspective, making the most of the big data opportunity requires the adoption of two key strategies: 1) augmenting data archiving capabilities with nearline storage; and 2) re-architecting the business warehouse (BW) data model for lean, flexible, organized “views” of information that serve up agile reporting without increasing administrative
overhead.” Do this, add the human aspect, and solve big business problems using your big data.

If you have questions about these myths, feel free to reach out to a Top Big Data Twitter Influencers.

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About Jen Cohen Crompton

Jen Cohen Crompton is a SAP Blogging Correspondent reporting on big data, cloud computing, enterprise mobility, analytics, sports and tech, and anything else innovation-related. When she's not blogging, she can be caught marketing, using social media and/or presenting at conferences around the world. Disclosure: Jen is being compensated by SAP to produce a series of articles on the innovation topics covered on this site. The opinions reflected here are her own.

Letting Transparency And Insights Lead The Way

Mohammed Karzoun

Excellence in governance is hinged on exceeding service delivery expectations of citizens while balancing fiscal health and overall efficiencies. A transparent and connected government that uses insights to guide decision-making fosters trust and helps governments achieve efficiencies across financial, social, and economic aspects of governance. 

Today’s information age is no longer about sole proprietorship of information and data. The more information is shared, the more value it adds. Sharing information represents transparency and encourages trust by offering ample opportunity for citizens to scrutinize and understand the rationale behind public service offerings.

Further, analyzing data yields insights, helping the government make informed policy decisions and step up against corruption, fraud, and lacunae in functioning. To achieve this effectively, I feel data is key to driving excellence in governance. Data, captured in real time and shared, enables a transparent and accountable environment and delivers significant insights for improved governance. 

Insights help governments deliver the customer promise

Citizens today are very demanding of governments, expecting open access to information, transparency of transactions, seamless interactions, and fulfillment of needs. The last decade has witnessed a greater focus on reforms in the public sector aimed at improving service delivery and enhancing the customer promise. A critical result of these reforms has been the necessity to treat citizens like customers and place their needs at the core of every decision, from formulating strategies to designing policies and execution.

Governments need to re-engineer their processes and use data-driven governance to enable this customer-centricity. And for this, technology can be a key enabler because the development of customer-centric models calls for customer insights—an evaluation of customers’ wants and needs, improving the customer experience and minimizing risks associated with service delivery.

Business forensics can help optimize government resource planning

Customer feedback can generate significant insights to help governments deliver on the customer promise. By understanding the needs of its citizens and putting in place mechanisms to address those needs or problems, a government sets the tone for achieving excellence.

Insights are not only necessary to deliver efficiencies to citizens. To achieve a fiscal balance and internal efficiencies, the governments’ interaction with its extended customer base of employees, suppliers, and partners also needs to be managed and resources optimized. Business forensics also deliver these capabilities to governments by helping generate insights needed to optimize the governments’ financial resources and react to economic changes.

I believe that SAP’s transformative technologies that leverage real-time analytics provide governments with real-time data and flexible reporting tools to gain deeper insights into areas of improvement across departments. This helps identify and minimize risk and ensure compliance.

Transparency drives accountability as silos give way to a connected government

Transparency syncs governmental objectives with project objectives. A transparent and clear understanding of governance strategy helps create this sync while balancing resource priorities to ensure that outcomes are timely and effective. This also helps the governments see the big picture and drill down into details for instant decision-making while having single version of the truth.

Transparency requires that department silos give way to a connected government. An integrated and coordinated governance model not only avoids duplication of efforts and resources but also eliminates redundancies in storing information and utilizing resources.

A connected government boasts better communication and coordination across departments, increases ministry-wide transparency, and enhances accountability across a decentralized environment. It holds to reason that government entities and departments that are accountable tend to be more agile, flexible, and efficient.

I feel an important enabler for this transparency and accountability can be setting service standards. By putting in place specific mechanisms to measure KPI’s and evaluate service levels, governments can become more responsive and achieve citizen happiness.

Keeping it real: Why real-time information is the cornerstone of transparency and insights

People no longer want to be told about what happened in the past and how; they seek real-time information. Real-time information and real-time analytics enrich both the government and its citizens with data, which leads to transparency from the perspective of citizens and converts into insights from the government’s point of view.

This open government partnership implies that the decision-makers can anticipate the needs of citizens and the needs of the economy on a real-time basis and make decisions on policies accordingly and on the fly. Such decisions increase reliability and consistency of financial and operational information.

Real-time governance enabled by technology provides the governments entities and their leadership with unprecedented visibility into the workings of the various departments, increasing accountability and enhancing opportunities for collaboration across functions. It allows governments to answer key questions in the moment, such as: What is happening now? Why is it happening? What will happen? Governments can move to the era of predictive analytics by collecting and relating their objectives in real time to make informative decisions for better future planning.

In conclusion, changes in citizen needs and expectations are a continuous process, and a radical one-time reform cannot suffice. Governments need to leverage technology to implement a mechanism that continually monitors insights and develops an institutional culture of improvement. At the same time, encouraging a data-driven transparent service delivery model can position governments well to achieve excellence by delivering on the customer promise.

For more on the role of technology in government, see A Duty Of Care In The Digital Government Era.

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Mohammed Karzoun

About Mohammed Karzoun

Mohammed Karzoun is the Industry Leader for Public Sector at SAP. He manages government, smart cities, healthcare, public security, defense, higher education, and postal services sectors across the United Arab Emirates and Oman. With 20 years of experience in primarily public sector transformation, Mohammed has been engaged with multiple government entities to help drive their strategies and digital transformation initiatives.

How Analytics Fits Into Your Next Digital Transformation

Eamon Ida

We hear a lot about digital transformation these days and the groundbreaking technologies that will lead to these transformations, such as blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), ML (machine learning), AI (artificial intelligence), the cloud, and analytics, to name just a few. All it takes is a look at advertisements from various tech companies (and these days every company is a tech company) in Harvard Business Review, Wired, or the Wall Street Journal to see the examples in action.

Much of the message revolves around leveraging these new technologies to disrupt existing models and create new value. But many business leaders who are new to these technologies—though  not lacking in curiosity about their potential—wonder how they can leverage these different technologies. Can they be connected and surfaced together to create true digital innovation systems? By showcasing scenarios, we’ve shown how an analytics cloud platform helps solve these questions and connect technology together to make smarter decisions faster and at the speed of market changes.

Digital transformation and machine learning

Machine learning is one example. In scores of today’s business scenarios, algorithms are instantly suggesting intelligent decisions for use in more involved decision making or where many variables are present. But in many cases, we’re still at the point where humans need to approve the machine (or robot) decision by hand.

However, scheduling a predictive maintenance repair to one or more your vehicles in a fleet before damage occurs, changing the route of a vehicle in the supply chain to avoid traffic that will delay delivery, or detecting patterns in transactions before a fraud occurs—all of these are examples of intelligent decisions suggested by machine learning. (Read Trenitalia’s IoT-Enabled Dynamic Maintenance.)

These decision suggestions or approvals are best located in an analytics platform, where we can surface up not only the recommended decisions, but also contextual data from other sources (such as geographic or IoT information) to improve the quality of the decision.

Digital transformation and IoT

When we consider IoT data, the value of analytics becomes even clearer—sensor technology, for example, can produce data every second or, in many instances, milliseconds. With analytics, we’re able to surface up this sensor data, along with data from other sources, to a real-time dashboard that provides both real-time and actionable insights into sensor data and activity.

Digital transformation and cloud platforms

With the democratization of data and the inevitable transparency of business in today’s connected world, we need to consider investments in technology that allow us to provide these platforms to employees, customers, and vendors all around the world. This is where the beauty of a cloud platform, powered by an in-memory computing platform comes into play.

Using a cloud platform not only enables innovation at scale, but also the connection of disparate data sources and technologies together. Just look at companies in industries such as airlines, delivery, and healthcare (to name just a few). Disruptors abound that are building “cloud first” and are not just using analytics internally but are providing it to customers as a competitive advantage.

You, like many of the leaders we speak with, might be wondering, What are some examples of digital transformation where analytics and data have played a critical role? What are some of the biggest challenges or roadblocks to more pervasive and effective analytics, and what are some of the best practices you have seen in the use of analytics?

SAP recently completed a new paper with IDC on the Value of Analytics in Digital Transformation. In it, we answer all of these common questions and more with the help of industry experts.  Read the whitepaper today to learn how you and your organization can leverage the disruptive powers of analytics in your next digital transformation. And see this infographic for a bird’s-eye view of the key findings.

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Eamon Ida

About Eamon Ida

Eamon is a passionate, creative, and data-driven analytics product marketer at SAP. He has a special interest in technology and its role at the forefront of how we live and work together.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.