Last year at a San Jose Earthquakes event, I met Steve Jones, Global VP for Big Data and Analytics at Capgemini: “Is it football, is it soccer, will that discussion ever end?”
In any case, we had a very lively discussion regarding the sport and our individual visions of the world. Steve is honest, fair, and a great conversationalist. I knew that I wanted to pick his brain further regarding his thoughts around Big Data and share them with you.
Below is the Big Data conversation that I had with Steve. I hoped his answers would provide greater insight into Big Data and how he sees its impact on business. And I was not disappointed. I hope you will enjoy his thoughts just as much as I do.
EKB: How does your company define Big Data?
SJ: It’s not really about “Big” or “Fast” it’s really about a shift away from single schema data approaches towards ‘schema on need’ and the integration of insight to the point of action. Volumes are one challenge, but the real challenge is the mental shift away from data warehouses toward more flexible insight-driven solutions.
EKB: Why did you make the decision to focus on Big Data?
SJ: Capgemini was one of the first big systems integrators to look at what Big Data really meant operationally. Back in 2011 we were already talking about how companies need to change the way they looked at governing data in a Big Data world. We made the focus back then to really concentrate on driving the transformation towards this new world as we saw it as crucial to helping our clients deliver long term value.
EKB: What impact is the change to Big Data having for your clients?
SJ: The first impact is on how we deliver information projects, being able to use multiple different types of analytical engines on the same sets of data means we are able to solve more problems without requiring a new technology stack and another data silo. The other is in terms of being able to deliver specific pieces of insight much faster. What new technologies are doing is enabling the sorts of agile and DevOps practices that have become the normal way of working for application development to be applied to information projects.
EKB: How do you see the Big Data market changing in the future?
SJ: The big shift we are seeing now is the rise of fast data with technologies like Spark, Storm and grid databases such as Gemfire, the combination of Big and Fast helps companies to actually react as something is happening and even anticipate it in advance. This means that insights are being integrated directly back into operational processes and having to work at application, rather than traditional BI, speeds.
EKB: What is the biggest myth about Big Data?
SJ: That there isn’t any governance and that it’s about replacing a data warehouse. The reality is that today very little information decisions are driven from a data warehouse, Excel, systems information and local data marts drive most decisions. The reality is that taking proper control of your data requires you to recognize the full landscape.
EKB: What business questions has Big Data helped you answer?
SJ: Big Data has helped us answer a huge range of questions for clients, some that couldn’t have been done before due to technology or cost. But really its helped us answer a much more important general question “How can I get new insights faster?”, specific insights are great, but a new way of working that delivers continual value is better.
EKB: What is advice you would give to someone embarking on a Big Data project?
1)Start with the view that you are going to replace the substrate on your entire data landscape.
2) Think about governance not as about quality but as about enabling collaboration
3) Minimize your number of different technologies. The lesson of Google, Facebook and Amazon is that you don’t need a huge variety of technologies that do the same thing, you need a few things that each do one thing well.
You can follow more of what Steve Jones is thinking about Big Data by following him on twitter @mosesjones.