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Hosted analytics programme creates big data enthusiasts at EMC

Fri 4 Apr 2014

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Transforming its business to run on predictive analytics has created a new cadre of data junkies at EMC as it seeks to exploit an internal hosted business analytics service.

Chuck Hollis, the vice president of Global Marketing CTO at EMC, reporting on the progress of its Business Analytics as a Service (BAaaS) project in his blog said: “IT refashions itself as the internal service provider of choice: creating services that business people want to consume. But what are the killer new services that the business crowd is thirsty for — and willing to pay for? It’s data – and lots of it. Gathered from as many sources as possible, analysed in a variety of ways, and consumed and shared as efficiently as possible. Big data analytics.”

He said that the move was transforming its business and that while the old data world of efficiencies, batch reports, hindsight, and IT reports and tools is still “useful and important,” the “investment pattern going forward is around getting better at predictive analytics, and all that it entails” such as revenue generation, real time decision making, foresight, business DIY analytics and ‘bring your own’ tools.

He said the transformation had been taking place over several years but that they were approaching the “final phase” which is to get better at “operationalising our findings”. “Whether that is new process or new applications — big data doesn’t create value until it’s put into practice. And that might end up being the hardest part of our journey,” he said.

He described the set up as hub-and-spoke with common services and data sources used by all but each of the current 12 tenants, comprising 366 named users, having their own workspace with their own data sets, tools and “interesting questions that they are pursuing” – approximately 20,000 a day.

One of the key challenges will be the joint IT/business delivery model said Hollis. “The roles, interactions and responsibilities in the cross-functional teams are evolving quickly, and entirely new important roles are popping up (e.g. data engineer),” he said. “What worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future, so everyone is paying very close attention to how we organize for success.”

He added that part of this increased focus is strongly motivated by bringing business subject matter experts (SMEs) closer to the action. “Instead of requirements being simply thrown over the wall, the successful pattern is a tightly integrated cross-functional team where all the disciplines work closely together”, he said.

Another key feature of the project has been ‘selling it’ to the users he said. The main pitch was: “You as business user bring the interesting business questions — and some resources — and the environment will help you get where you’re going faster and better.”

And while the historically it was presumed that most business people “didn’t really want to get into the weeds” when it came to data: sourcing it, analysing it, summarising it, etc the opposite is true of the new model. “Business people really do want to get close to their data and understand it as much as possible,” said Hollis.

“IT is still responsible for accessing the enterprise information stores, and will never be relieved of the enforcing information access policies. But in this model, IT has a new responsibility: making enterprise data easy to discover, source, interpret and use.” Although he warned: “That’s turning out to be far harder than it might sound”.

He said: “While the technology challenges are not inconsequential, the real effort is in the soft stuff: organising for success, investing in the training required, collaborating and communicating with new people in new ways, all wrapped up in a progressive governance model. We’re weaning ourselves from our familiar HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) decision making model, and getting far more comfortable exploiting unexpected insights that might challenge conventional wisdom.

“I think it’s a journey most proficient organizations will find themselves grappling with before too long,” he adds.

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