Big Data: Big Opportunities

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You’ve got data. Now it’s time to harness the power of analytics and drive business value.


If you haven’t created and launched your big data and analytics strategy, you may already be behind your competitors. We asked CIOs, CEOs, and other IT professionals whether they’re using big data and analytics, and why or why not. The overwhelming majority of respondents are not only using big data and analytics, but consider it essential to their business operations.

No Excuses – Now’s the Time

At Broadsuite and V3B, CEO Daniel Newman (@danielnewmanUV) says there’s no excuse for any modern business to operate without big data and analytics. “We have moved beyond the discussion of infinite data to a time where companies must have a method to analyze and garner insights from their data that helps them make better business decisions,” he notes.

Newman says his business seeks to leverage analytics for every function and every strategic decision. “In a world where we can better predict the future and prescribe solutions for our employees and customers, why would we go at it blindly? Not only does it sound risky, but in an age where we have endless possibilities with data and analytics, it may be plain irresponsible,” he says.

The digital transformation leaves no business untouched, and all organizations need to derive value and insight from incoming data—not at the speed of business, but at the speed of data. “Technology has evolved to where it’s possible to analyze data at the speed of business more economically than ever before,” says Shawn Rogers, Chief Research Officer - Information Management Group at Dell. “This opens doors of innovation to a much broader swath of organizations that can use information to drive their businesses forward—faster, further, and more competitively.”

At Dell SecureWorks, for example, the information security services organization investigates approximately 6,500 potential security incidents and analyzes tens of thousands of samples of malicious software each day. In the past SecureWorks dealt with this massive amount of information using proprietary technologies.

By implementing the Dell | Cloudera Apache Hadoop Solution, however, the organization reduced data storage costs from $17/GB to approximately 21 cents/GB. What’s more, the new solution provides SecureWorks with easy scalability for future growth, high availability for critical services, and the flexibility to accommodate both structured and unstructured data.

Big Data – Many Potential Use Cases

So where are these big data adopters using their data and analytics? What types of business insights are they able to glean? The answers run the gamut, from security and customer experience to business insights and budget planning.

  • Security & vulnerabilities 

For some organizations, big data and analytics play a key role in security. “We are using big data and analytics in a few interesting areas of cybersecurity to allow companies to start playing offense against attackers and prevent vulnerabilities from being exposed,” says Mike Kail (@mdkail), Chief Innovation Officer at Cybric.

In particular, Cybric correlates various global threat feeds and the Common Vulnerability and Exploits (CVE) feed with an inventory of application infrastructure. This allows the organization to notify security teams in real-time of vulnerabilities. “We are also leveraging vulnerabilities and associated remediation steps to build an automated remediation platform,” he adds.

  • Customer experience & interaction

The fundamentals of business haven’t changed—it’s still about meeting customer needs, says Tony Patti, CIO at S. Walter Packaging Corporation. “The more useful information we have to do that, the better, and we certainly have much more available information than ever before,” he notes.

Data mined off websites, for example, can be used to develop a near 360-degree view of customers and their true interests. For many organizations, this is the best way to understand the market and the customer's needs—and ensure the company is solving customer pain points to the best of its ability.

Marketing firm Merkle, for example, needed a scalable, cost-effective way to capture and analyze large amounts of structured and unstructured consumer data for use in developing more effective marketing campaigns. Its existing solution wasn’t equipped to support the massive amounts of data generated by consumers on multiple devices, however. By partnering with Dell to deploy a Hadoop cluster based on Dell and Intel technologies, the organization not only cut costs by 60%, but also boosted processing speeds by 10 times.

“We’ve completely redesigned how we capture, store, and provision data with the new Dell Hadoop cluster,” says Tony Giordano, Executive Vice President of the Technology Solutions Group at Merkle. “We can gather larger amounts of data, and our analysts and statisticians can mine data in ways they couldn’t before.”

Website www.carsales.com uses big data to “optimize customer experience, be it on-site experience, personalization, conversion optimization, or ROI reporting,” says Ajay Bhatia (@AjayAus), CIO/CPO. Like many organizations with a high volume of big data, Bhatia says the key challenge is “making sense of this in order to make the best product, business, and customer decisions.”

“In a customer engagement context, we are using this capability to optimize when, how often, and in which context we re-engage with customers,” he notes. “We are also protecting customers by detecting suspicious behavior.”

  • Business insights & budget planning

In the city of Palo Alto, California, the variety of big data collected leads to a variety of uses, says Jonathan Reichental (@Reichental), CIO at the City of Palo Alto. “We use big data and analytics for making decisions in domains such as city planning, sustainability, electricity and water, transportation, and our budget planning process.”

At Select Bidder, on the other hand, Chief Technology Officer Ken Bodnar (@ArtofWarm) says the organization uses “analytics for automobile remarket valuations, and we use big data and analytics to identify best buyers for each remarketed automobile.”

Where to Start?

For organizations at the other end of the spectrum, who may be at the start of their big data and analytics journey, several IT leaders offer this advice: Define the business problem first.

David Chou (@dchou1107), Vice President and CIO at Children’s Mercy Hospital, says it’s important to start with the basics, and define the problem that needs solving before making any large investments. Another factor is providing easy access to data for everyone in the organization. “If it requires programming to generate reports, then it may be too complicated,” he notes.

The data-driven transformation is critical, Chou says, since using data to make decisions is smarter “than relying on their intuition or past experiences.”

Dhawal Damania (@dhawaldamania), Head of Digital/ecommerce CTO at JasonL Office Furniture, concurs. “I am a huge pusher on using big data and analysis,” he notes, “because then you can move your decision making process from your ‘gut,’ or ‘experience’ to what your data says.”

Barbara Call is Digital Content Director at IDG. Contact her at bcall@idgcommunications.com

For additional information, please contact Hadoop@Dell.com.

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