Anne Fisher's recent Forbes article, "Why Big Data Isn't Paying Off for Companies (Yet)" details some very disturbing trends I know to be true: too many companies have too much data and they simply don't know how to use it.

As Fisher reports:

"80% of large companies report they’ve seen an important strategic decision go haywire in the past three years because it was based on 'flawed' data. Almost three-quarters (72%) say that delays in getting information to the right people have torpedoed 'at least one' major effort in the same period."

So is it inevitable that with mo' data comes mo' problems? Not necessarily.

Mastering big data is a complex challenge that goes beyond the solution itself. Don’t get me wrong, having the right solution is the first step in the process. However, it is not the saving grace to the difficulties that come with the age of information. Ensuring your success with big data can be done with these simple steps. And yes, they start with sourcing the right solution.


  1. Decide on a Narrower Focus as You Get Started - Nailing Down Exactly What Your Problem is Will Guide You

The first thing you should do before ever looking at solutions is to determine what issues you want a big data solution to solve. Once you are past that, you can begin looking at the options. Ideally, you should land on a solution that can meet your immediate needs and grow with you and your organization over time. Thus is why I love the idea of starting small and expanding from there when it comes to a new big data project. A smaller focus will help you decide what's most important for your business, and allows you the flexibility to figure that out during the first phase of the process. It also allows the solutions provider to learn more about your specific needs, and help tailor the solution to meet those.

Do note that when you are starting up a big data project, there is nothing more frustrating than scope creep or attempting a solution that includes everything.  You cannot start small and targeted like this, though, when expenses are front-loaded and excessive. To counteract this challenge, utilize a solution provider and solution that will grow as your needs do. Plan to implement a solution in stages that does not fiscally penalize you for doing so.

  1. Don't Be in a Hurry – The Right Solution from the Wrong Provider Can Wreck You

When it comes to owning the right solution, it is equally as important to go with the option that solves your challenges as it is to purchase it from a provider that understands your unique business needs. Fisher's article underscores the importance of not just the solution you buy, but who you buy it from as well. I personally can't tell you how many clients I've worked with who have asked me, "What should we put on our dashboard?"

As with all complicated, complex things (which is especially true when it comes to big data): that depends. Ultimately what is going to go on the dashboard depends on the organization, industry, and point of view. What makes sense for an executive for a real estate investment firm will not necessarily ring true for a VP of Supply Chain at a manufacturer.

This is the point of the conversation where your solutions provider should be able to provide guidance in the type of metrics that would make a great starting point. And that's because hopefully (*fingers crossed*) your solutions provider has not only the technical skills, but also the related industry/business acumen to act as a key advisor for your rollout.

  1. Remember, a Solution Can’t Solve Everything - Recognize your current functional silos and cultural nuances that could derail your big data efforts

As cliché as it sounds, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard "That's not how we do it here" or some iteration of this excuse. I hated to burst that client's bubble, but there isn't a solution out there that can solve a problem (read: excuse) like that. Recognizing and addressing your current functional silos and cultural nuances before you implement a solution is key to ensuring the success of it overall.

Your solutions provider should be able to advise you on ways to overcome these challenges, but eventually, someone high up in your organization will need to encourage these strategic decisions, even if they are unpopular at first.

If you want your big data solution to actually be deemed a success, you'll also need to turn off other methods of attempting the same answers. Give users an option and they'll always go with what they are comfortable with, regardless of how much better something new is. Work with your solutions provider to find a solution that is intuitive for your business needs, and as seamless as possible in its implementation, as well. Just as importantly, seek out a change management specialist to assist in transitioning the culture to meet the future needs of your company.

Follow these steps and you're far more likely to reap the benefits of a big data. Remember, big data is supposed to be a competitive advantage, not a meaningless exercise in futility.

Mo' data, mo' problems? Nope. More like, mo' data, mo' answers.

Need a bit more help deciding between a big data solutions? I'd recommend reading this e-Book on BI before making any definite moves. 


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