Poor management ‘holding back’ big data projects

Businesses that do not take the time to formulate an effective management plan for their big data deployments are unlikely to see their systems reach their full potential, according to one expert.

In an interview with Computing magazine ahead of the V3 Big Data Summit, Wael Elrifai, EMEA director for enterprise solutions at Pentaho, explained that it is often not a lack of programming skills that hold back these projects, but failures in understanding how all the various processes will work together to deliver actionable results.

Too many businesses, having bought into the hype surrounding big data analytics technology, fall into the trap of simply implementing a system and hoping for the best, without paying attention to how they will manage the operational side.

This can be particularly problematic when dealing with solutions such as predictive analytics, where failures in management processes mean the results of these activities are not passed on effectively.

"If you built a real-time predictive system and you don't have a management process to implement the recommendations, well then that's not going to get you much utility," Mr Elrifai stated. "Part of the problem is that companies have been lacking knowledge about how to put these projects together".

Therefore having management buy-in to big data projects will be essential to success – and this needs to come from the board level. If executives at the top of a company are sending a message that such deployments are only IT-led projects, other management personnel on the operational side of the business will not appreciate what they need to do to assist with these initiatives.

However, the onus is also on big data advocates to explain what the technology can do for their enterprise. Without this, companies will struggle to justify their investment or point to measurable metrics that can show whether or not it has been successful.

Mr Elrifai said this is because another common problem within the big data sector is a "me-too culture" among adopters. In many cases, businesses have heard about the benefits of the technology and see their competitors getting strong results from their own deployments, so they feel compelled to get involved as well. However, often, they do this simply out of fear of being left behind, and do not fully consider how big data will apply to their operations.

This results in businesses making heavy investments in big data technology before they have clear use cases in mind. Having ill-defined goals naturally makes it more difficult to develop a clear management plan for the technology.

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