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Big Data is Tearing IT Apart

Jeffrey Abbott

7 23 14 Jeff Image 1Occasionally I see things. Fortunately, I don’t see dead people. But lately, around the board room, I see new people. I see IT diverging. I see “I” and “T” as decoupling into two separate business units. And technology vendors [that sell to IT] need to start treating IT as two different organizations with two different sets of problems to solve.

My career is focused on selling stuff to IT departments. Or, to wear my marketing hat, my career is focused on helping IT departments understand how to manage risks, improve operational efficiency, and take advantage of new business opportunities in their organizations. One of the latest and biggest buzzwords is Big Data. Gartner puts Big Data at the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” on their infamous Hype Cycle. This is validated by the non-specific TV ads you watch telling you that Big Data is enabling all of your everyday activities, as if we could run to the store and buy some Big Data. I’d guess that Costco would have the best deal. I expect that Lego Big Data for Xbox should be out in time for the holiday season.

Take your pick, but I define Big Data as the practice of applying new processes and technologies to utilize large, multiple, independent data sets for use cases beyond what was originally intended. And because the world is installing sensors on everything and connecting them all to the Internet to collect data, these enormous data sets are diverse, dynamic, and dispersed. So step aside, 3 Vs of Big Data. I give you the 3 Ds!

As people like me spend their time trying to drum up new use cases for applying the Big Data approach, we often wind up with business solutions looking for IT problems. But even if we hit the mark with a solution that does indeed solve a real problem, we still need to consider whose problem it is. And this is where I’m seeing the decoupling of I and T.

7 23 14 Jeff Image 2One view of IT is that its primary responsibility is to spend as few dollars as possible to ensure that the rest of the company can do business. This is the operational side of IT that must keep the lights on, keep us safe from malware, keep us current, keep us efficient, and keep us optimized— for doing all the things we already do. This is the “T” of IT. This side needs the past and present of Big Data techniques to see what happened, run analytics around trends, create reports, as well as to identify areas to increase efficiency and optimize IT operations. It’s primarily focused on using technology to solve technology problems.

However, as explained in Bill Schmarzo’s recent blog, 4 Ms of Big Data: Big Data Creates New Value, Big Data also enables IT to also play a role in enabling the business to reach new markets, find new business opportunities, develop better products, and enhance the value it provides to downstream customers. Well, that’s all good news. But these new use cases don’t exactly sound like a job for a server/config guy. Yet Big Data can do these things, and there are many examples. This is the “I” side of IT, and it is the present and future of Big Data. This is not to say that the technology doesn’t matter anymore. What’s new is that, instead of using technology to solve a technology problem, we’re using information to solve a business problem. These two types of problems have different stakeholders. The “I” and “T” are becoming two organizations, with different leadership and goals.

The evidence of this change is apparent in the boardroom. We now see CMOs coming in to learn how “IT solutions” can help them identify new markets, predict the outcome of changes in their sales process, and gain insight about what new products and services they should create. And we see new titles such as Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, and Data Scientist. Does this signal the divergence of two wings of IT? And if it does… so what?

I’ll tell you what. Technology vendors that traditionally catered to the IT market now have a target market and positioning problem. On the “T” side of the customer use cases, this is a relief. Technology vendors can use existing go-to-market approaches for traditional IT, and dial back their marketing messaging to the “tried and true” reducing costs and saving time. But to reach the new “I” side of the IT customer—which is where we’ll see the biggest uptick in new Big Data use cases—Big Data vendors need new sales approaches, new business relationships, new routes to market, new value propositions, new training, and new customer support models. The marketing messages here need to be about new opportunities, new markets, new business processes, new products, and new services.

With every new challenge, comes new opportunity. The enabling technologies and processes of Big Data solutions promise to create limitless new opportunities and value for IT vendors, customers, and consumers. And I, for one, am excited to see IT practitioners become advisors to the business and lead the development of these new opportunities with Big Data.

Big Data is Tearing IT Apart
Jeffrey Abbott

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More Stories By Jeffrey Abbott

Jeff is part of EMC’s Global Services division, helping customers understand how to identify, and take advantage of, opportunities in Big Data.

Prior to EMC, Jeff helped build and promote a cloud-based ecosystem for CA Technologies that combined an online community, cloud development platform, and e-commerce site for cloud services. Jeff also spent several years within CA’s Thought Leadership group, creating and promoting top-level messaging and social-media programs around major disruptive trends in IT. Prior to this, Jeff spent 3 years at EMC, marketing IT management software products. Jeff’s marketing career also includes time at Citrix, as well as numerous marketing firms – one of which he founded with 2 former colleagues in 1999. Jeff lives in Sudbury, MA, with his wife, 2 boys, and dog. Jeff enjoys skiing, backpacking, photography, and classic cars.

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