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Coping with the big data management challenge – it’s all in the mind

This is a guest blogpost by Miriam Fois, general manager, for UK & Ireland,WhereScape.

If you think we’re in the age of big data, think again. As the phrase has it, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”, because, as we usher in the dawn of the Internet of Things, data volumes are set to truly explode.

But given I recently asked a conference audience who was getting value from data only to get a sea of shaking heads in response, it appears that many organisations are failing miserably when it comes to driving value from data. When I asked who expected to get value from their data in the future, however, all hands were raised.

So, how to solve this challenge? In my view it’s all about changing your mindset. Easier said than done right? Well maybe; and then again, maybe not.

As a child growing up with a father in the army, the one thing I came to learn (very quickly!) was that change is a constant. Change in my father’s base meant change for me in terms of geography, school and friends. I coped with all this change, though, because my Mum was insistent that I had to approach it with the right mindset. “Don’t think about the things that might be bad or go wrong, but think about the things that could be great,” she would instruct me.

I see parallels in the challenge with managing data. People have to change their mindset. Fast. They have to realise that they don’t have a big data problem, rather that they have a big data management problem. The focus then comes in directing resources on cracking the management bit of the problem. It’s this that requires the all important change in mindset; swapping out old methods for new approaches.  Investing in new skills and new technologies that can effectively automate much of the process. And taking an holistic approach to managing the challenge by addressing people, processes and technologies together.

Now, the key to success with this approach will also lie in the right planning before you embark on executing your strategy. Again, another thing I took from being an “Army child” was the 7 P principle that proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance.

If you haven’t heard of it, do take the time to look it up on the link (and apologies in advance for the mild profanity!). But frankly, if such an organising statement works for the British Army, I’m pretty certain it will work for handling data management. So, my advice is to invest in the planning process and keep the 7Ps in mind!

Organisational inertia and fear of change makes such a shift in mindset really difficult, though. It’s why I can see the rise of the Chief Data Officer: someone who is accountable for the management of Big Data, but more importantly, has an executive mandate to power through the change in thinking required to be successful.

We all know the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome. Sadly, I see this time and time again with many of the businesses I meet with when it comes to big data. So, I give them my message: understand you have a big data management challenge and change your mindset. Then you’ll be well set to go and grab the massive commercial benefits that big data can deliver.