The following is the second in a series of conversations about digital innovation and the intelligent technologies powering the Intelligent Enterprise with Jeff Janiszewski and Ginger Shimp from SAP North America Marketing. In this blog, they discuss the importance of managing Big Data.
JEFF: So, it seems to me that people like to talk about IoT because it has that “cool” cutting-edge factor, and they like to talk about data analytics because it has a sophisticated intellectual appeal. But Big Data, which lies between those things, gets ignored because it’s more pedestrian. It’s like getting an oil change on a Ferrari; it’s not the best part of the car experience, but it’s absolutely critical. Big Data is the backbone of innovation – the foundation on which business is built today.
GINGER: I think there’s some confusion on what “Big Data” is. People understand that data is information organized in a usable format, but the distinction between your garden-variety data and Big Data is less clear.
JEFF: It’s really a misnomer. The concept isn’t just about the size of a data set, it’s also about having a wide assortment of data, how fast it’s processed, and the quality of the data.
GINGER: At its core, Big Data is “simply” a collection of structured and unstructured bits of information (known or assumed as facts) – so large and complex and stemming from myriad, disparate sources – that, when mined for insight, can change our lives. The problem is that some end users fear Big Data because they think it’s about the government or large corporations harvesting their personal information for unscrupulous profit.
JEFF: Then it becomes a vicious circle for business. As they try to protect their consumers’ privacy, it naturally becomes less transparent, which in turn makes the consumers more paranoid about what’s happening to their information.
GINGER: There is no better example of this than the credit bureaus. Their entire business model is based on collecting personal information and selling it to others – and often not in aggregate. However, they can’t sell your credit report without your permission, and having accurate data is their biggest concern. While some conspiracy theorists will have you believe that the bureaus want to disenfranchise the underprivileged, the reality is that the credit bureaus can empower people by allowing them to prove their credit-worthiness.
JEFF: That’s why we created the Searching for Salaì podcast; you have to be able to separate the fiction from reality. If you mystify technology it’s bound to create feelings of paranoia, but if you humanize it, people will trust you.
GINGER: And the reality is, gathering, storing, and leveraging data isn’t all upside: if it’s not done right it can be a costly burden for businesses. The volume of data in cyberspace is doubling every 12–24 months and if you know anything about geometric progressions, that’s kind of scary.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s easy to conflate cyberspace with outer space, as if data were stored in some limitless void. It certainly isn’t. Whether the data is stored on-premises or in the cloud, it has to reside on servers, which in turn need to be procured, networked, powered, and maintained. That requires physical space, human capital, energy, and hardware.
GINGER: And sometimes businesses become data hoarders. They want to keep every bit of everything for all time just in case they may need it someday. But just like hoarding in the physical world, hoarding data can make finding information far more complicated, costly, and time-consuming.
JEFF: That’s not Big Data, that’s “Colossal Data,” and it is a problem. Imagine you walk into Grandma’s house and she hasn’t thrown anything out since the Great Depression, and you need to find something valuable, like her birth certificate. The volume of stuff is a problem, but you also have to consider the disorganization, the worthless clutter, and the time it’s going to take to sort through it all. The four V’s of Big Data are volume, variety, velocity, and veracity.
GINGER: And just like Grandma, I think businesses get paralyzed by decades of old data, because cleaning up the mess – and keeping it clean – can seem overwhelming.
JEFF: To be fair, some businesses are victims of their own success. They grew so rapidly that they didn’t have the time or bandwidth to sort the data.
And in some industries – such as legal, medical, government, or finance – they’re required to keep information in perpetuity. But that’s even more reason that businesses need to keep on top of their data and work with trusted partners who are not only experts at organizing and backing up data, but also know how to intelligently purge data. That’s not only a good idea, it’s pretty much mandatory for the survival of any business today.
GINGER: As you said, this is the backbone of innovation. One (very bad) way to solve the problem of Colossal Data is to keep many discreet data sets all across the company. If accounting, sales, legal, HR and all of the partners and suppliers are operating in silos, they’ll each have smaller data sets, but they may be redundant, and the lack of insight into another part of the company can be paralyzing.
JEFF: That’s why they call it data mining. You have data analysts picking their way through hoarded data looking for information gold.
GINGER: But just like looking for Grandma’s birth certificate, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. In a perfect world, there would be less data mining and more data finding. Clean it up, keep it clean, and get down to work.
To learn more about SAP Leonardo and Big Data, visit https://sapinnovate.me/leonardo/.
For a more imaginative experience of how technology has become integrated into our lives, listen to our cool new podcast, Searching for Salaì. “Episode 2: The Time Traveler’s Technology” is available now on Apple Podcasts. Catch up on past episodes and continue the experience at www.searchingforsalai.com.