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August 25, 2016

How to Make Big Data Work for You

Sponsored by   dell-intel-lockup-rgb


human face of big dataBig Data & Analytics – Projects Make It Happen

Big Data and Analytics (“Big Data”) is a term for extremely large sets of data that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, which can provide valuable insight into a specific business or market.   When used correctly, Big Data can provide significantvalue with major benefits reported, such as – increased speed of decision making, increased product quality, increased customer understanding and identifying and taking advantage of new business opportunities. [1]

The challenge for many executive teams is, first – how to get started and, then – how to adapt and improve their Big Data capabilities in order to continue to reap the benefits.  These challenges are not simple to overcome as Big Data forces organizations to take a very cross functional approach to the solution and break down silos between business units.  Big Data requires coordination, technology, a willingness to invest and patience.

Fortunately, there is a simple approach to tackling the Big Data challenge.  Take one step at a time.  Understand your business requirements and then build capabilities to address your needs.  As you become successful your business culture will begin to adsorb the results of your Big Data initiatives.  Then new projects will present themselves.  Simply move forward one project at a time; adding new capabilities and stronger business results as you go.  As you do so, your capabilities at each stage will begin to mature and point you toward the next step in the progression to fully utilizing Big Data to inform your business strategy.


Gartner’s Enterprise Information Management Maturity Model

In 2016, Gartner published a maturity model focused on how organizations can begin to take advantage of Big Data and continually evolve to ensure that the organization becomes more proficient at using Big Data, entitled “Enterprise Information Management Maturity Model”[2] (“Maturity Model”).  The Maturity Model is focused on helping organizations understand the capabilities required to benefit from Big Data or Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and how those capabilities change over time.

In general, maturity models are designed to help define capabilities that an organization needs to implement a sustainable business process. Maturity models define stages of maturity (“Stages”) that indicate how robust or mature the capabilities are within an organization.

The rationale with maturity models is that for an organization to be truly great at a business process it must execute well across all the capabilities of the process uniformly.  Maturity models can be great tools for organizations to measure and plan their progress through sophisticated business processes like Big Data.

Gartner’s Maturity Model defined seven core capabilities of effective Enterprise Information Management:

  1. Vision – define the business goals of a Big Data program
  2. Strategy – define the strategy of how the organization will develop and maintain its’ Big Data initiative
  3. Metric – define metrics that allow for measurement in business terms of the success of the Big Data programs
  4. Governance – define an information governance program to sustain the Big Data program over time and one that aligns with larger information governance needs of the organization
  5. Organization and Roles – define an organizational structure to support Big Data across the business
  6. Life Cycle – define an information architecture to support the flow of information generated by Big Data
  7. Infrastructure – provision the needed technological infrastructure to support Big Data

What is important about the capabilities is that they illustrate the need for Big Data initiatives to be more than a technology initiative.  Big Data must be aligned to a business need to coordinate the actions of IT teams and business teams to bring enterprise value to the organization.  Organizations must look to be able to deploy these capabilities uniformly across their Big Data initiatives to capture the full potential that Big Data can provide to a business.


How to Move Forward

 One of the general criticisms of maturity models is that they “describe” capabilities but they do not “prescribe” how to create capabilities and reach maturity in these capabilities within an organization.   Maturity models leave the “how to” part up to each organization to define on their own.

Recent research conducted by Dell among IT executives indicated that the primary barriers to effectively implementing Big Data programs in their organizations are:

  1. Lack of alignment between business and it
  2. Resource constraints
  3. Siloed data environments

Dell has identified tools and technologies, and processes that enable projects to overcome these barriers and help organizations gain maturity across the capabilities spectrum.

We see a series of projects that - when taken one step at a time – help you create a solid foundation to your Big Data programs.   Some of these projects are based in key classic Big Data enabling technologies like SAP Hana and Cloudera Hadoop.  Other projects need to focus on creating organizations and teams that are enabled with the right skills and software to make data meaningful and actionable.

Another important point to consider is “skipping” projects.  Vendors like Intel and Dell have invested heavily in understanding Big Data and its unique needs.  As a result, Intel has focused engineering on developing critical components from processor, memory, solid state drives, network interfaces and end to end security.   Dell has incorporated these key components into not only its server design but also its larger reference architectures.   Leveraging these investments by Dell and Intel allows you to skip steps in this process – eliminating months if not years from your Big Data journey.

The key is that these projects span strategy, tactics, people and technology to allow you to put a solid plan in place for your Big Data efforts.  Each small project builds off of the last to help you build a solid foundation that will continue to evolve and mature.

An upcoming publication will outline a series of these “One Project” initiatives to help your organization develop its Big Data program.



[1] Data from Dell Software sponsored primary research of 300 mid-market executives. 2014. http://i.dell.com/sites/doccontent/shared-content/solutions/en/Documents/getting-past-the-bigdata-hype-hero2.pdf

[2] Douglas Laney, Gartner’s Enterprise Information Management Maturity Model, March 2016.



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