Let’s face it; the average executive is intimidated by big data. Any big data project presents an overwhelming volume of information that needs to be sifted and analyzed to deliver insight that will require action. Big data means big budgets and big risk. Companies turn to big data consulting to mitigate that risk and break down the big data project into less intimidating pieces.
Big data consulting is about showing the customer how big data components work together to ensure success. The trick with big data consulting is making the customer understand that you are there to define their business problem in big data terms, not just to build the analytics infrastructure. If you can demonstrate the value of big data consulting at the outset by defining the problem, building the use case, and identifying the necessary data sources, then the client should have enough confidence in your expertise to let you complete the rest of the project.
Despite the proven value of big data, 92 percent of companies are stuck either planning their big data projects or putting them off until “some day.” Gartner says that 64 percent of organizations had purchased or planned to invest in big data in 2013, up from 58 percent in 2012. Of those 64 percent, only 30 percent have invested and less than 8 percent have deployed. The reason: most companies don’t know how to approach big data. This is why they need big data consulting.
Gartner’s big data expert, Svetlana Sicular, has identified eight reasons for the failure of big data projects which present eight opportunities to win over clients:
- Overcoming management resistance – Making no decision is not as bad as making the wrong decision, so executives don’t act. They don’t want an expensive big data project to uncover bad news. You can assuage those fears by being confident, explaining how big data can yield returns, and being willing to take responsibility so there is less heat on the executive team.
- Selecting the right use case – The use case is the cornerstone of any big data project. It defines the specific business challenge by identifying patterns that can be interpreted. Too often fledgling big data users either adapt a use case they addressed using business intelligence, or they start with an advanced question before they understand how big data works. As a big data consultant, you can guide this process so the use case isn’t too ambitious or too limited.
- Asking the right question – Behind each use case is an inherent question. Too often companies play it safe, spending a fortune to validate what they already know, or phrasing the question in such a way that big data can’t answer it. As the big data consulting expert, you can help identify and formulate a question worthy of big data analysis.
- Matching the right skillsets – Don’t trust IT to find the answers to business problems. Rely on the business experts who understand the problem, its context, and the parameters that affect the outcome. Part of big data consulting is aligning the right skills to the needs of the project.
- Deliver the right infrastructure – Unanticipated technical problems often cause big data projects to stall. Providing the enterprise expertise at the outset to anticipate requirements such as cloud storage, virtualization, parallel processing, and other demands will eliminate problems later.
- Aligning enterprise strategy – Any large organization will have multiple strategies and perspectives as to how to apply enterprise resources, e.g. are database repositories or cloud resources more important? Offering big data consulting services lets you come in as an outsider to mediate and align strategies so everyone is on the same page.
- Breaking down data silos – One of the biggest challenges companies face is data sharing. As a consultant you need to assess all available data resources. You need to talk to all the stakeholders. As a result, you can break down barriers and identify siloed information that could affect the outcome of the big data project.
- Embracing the solution – Solution avoidance can be a problem when you suspect the insight big data delivers will force you to take an action you don’t want to take, such as uncovering a known problem you know you have to fix. The consultant is the messenger, and if you uncover something unpleasant, you may have to be prepared to take the heat.
Note that the common denominator in all these challenges is the human element. It’s people worrying about failure or protecting their turf that promotes failure. One of the biggest advantages you offer as a big data consultant is that you are an outsider. You can ask questions no one else can ask and do things others can’t. And the client will thank you for it.