The more things change...

The concept of big data and analytics aren't new, they've been around for over 20 years. It's the terminology, the size of the available data and the methodology that's changed.

Johannesburg, 09 Mar 2018
Wade Gomes, JMR Software.
Wade Gomes, JMR Software.

Wade Gomes of JMR Software says companies have always had the need to access data. "After all, it is the 'capital' or most valuable asset of any business."

Today's technology is more readily available, but data is increasingly widespread and available from numerous different sources. Ensuring that your business has access to all of the available data is paramount in obtaining the bigger picture when using analytics to make informed business decisions.

The Internet of things (IOT) is adding to the big data headache as it is not a device or even a technology, it's a framework that is driven by the need to embed connectivity and intelligence across numerous different devices; in doing this it provides businesses with the ability to collect and access data directly or via the cloud. The ability to connect to these devices, collect the data and transform this data into business models that allows business to make reliable decisions, is very important.

There are currently 31 billion connected IOT devices and this is expected to grow exponentially over the next five years; therefore, it is strategically important that your business has the ability to access these data sources and address this growth and by doing so your business will remain competitive.

"Therefore, the demand for big data and analytics is being driven by the need for business to have access to more and better information. The terminology may have changed over the past 25 years, but the thought process has always been around, i.e. data warehouses and the ability to harness both structured and unstructured data and use this information to make real-time (just-in-time) decisions around their business," says Gomes.

The only difference between 1990/2000 and now is that the enterprise needs to access big data and gather more data than was available in the past from even more sources such as social media, the Internet, etc. All of that information then needs to be stored in one of two ways: either on-premises where you have control over your own data (but incurring massive costs in technology and people), or in the cloud (where you are charged for that which you use and you have the ability to grow at the click of a button).

Gomes says: "I'm having discussions with CIOs around how they can take advantage of this by placing all their data into one central repository and then through the use of software and analytical layers coupled with relevant services, allow their businesses to make real-time information available to the company executives so that they can make informed decisions.

"There are many solution providers who claim to have a solution for big data and analytics, but, how many of them have actually successfully implemented this type of solution and in so doing allow you to harness your current infrastructure and investments without making your existing investments redundant?

"There's no silver bullet. You can't buy an off-the-shelf solution. The ability to capture, store and access data has become a more services-led intervention than ever before. Previously, you could go and buy a solution and implement it, and know that your data was all there, and then put a layer of tools on top of that in order to access this information. Today, you have to be able to access all of that information and pull data from different sources, internal and external, which is why it's becoming a more services-driven capability. It's no different to the past really. It's just called a different thing. Simply put, you're putting all of your information in one place and analysing it. The difference is that the information draw has become that much bigger and more complex."

Gomes explains: "Once you have access to all the information pulled from different sources, making it available to management, marketing, the supply chain, HR or finance, becomes relatively easy. Using this available information to ensure that your business stays competitive and ahead of the game, is what it is all about."

Business's decisions around where to keep data are mostly driven by cost savings, says Gomes. "If you listen to all the CIOs in industry today, they say it's about putting their information in the cloud and making it more readily available to the business at the least possible cost. That's what's driving it at the moment."

In today's marketplace, product has almost become irrelevant as offerings need to be services-, expertise- and knowledge-driven. This applies equally when choosing a big data partner. Everyone has a big data strategy, but very few companies are able to implement it.

Three things to consider:

1. Where will you store your data? This is the biggest decision a company can make, whether they choose an on-premises data centre, and invest in the necessary technology, with inbuilt redundancy, or whether you opt to store everything in the cloud, or even a hybrid of the two.
2. How do you get your data into the cloud or your on-premises environment - i.e. into one place.
3. How will you extract the value from all the data that is coming in from all sources and in all different shapes and forms.