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Big data, real-time decision making, and a little recognized connection

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Everyone wants to use ‘intelligence’ to make better decisions about ‘events’; those increasing number of unplanned situations where – to use the jargon of this new world – an ‘insight’ is required from a mass of ‘unstructured’ information. The excitement that the opportunity big data presents is to be able to find an ‘insight’ from the huge and, still-exploding ever-faster, amount of unstructured data. The theory is, and eventually will be true, that new forms of analysis engines will be able to find unrelated data items in different media forms. Then connect them together rapidly enough to respond to and create presentations on device screens to support ‘real-time’ decision making.

There are capabilities such as Autonomy, recently acquired by HP, that already demonstrate how powerful this will be. But there is another way to get significant operational improvements through insights today, and that’s my little known point. There is a boom in mobility. The ability to make use of non-desktop devices to empower workers (such as service engineers and salespeople, or any number of roles that are not defined by coming to an office to sit at the same desk everyday) and play a significant role in the pre-determined structured procedural applications of the back office enterprise IT.

The connection between mobility and delivering business intelligence, or knowledge management to field workers has become recognized as one of the core drivers of new deployments. YellowFin recently posted a two-part series on their particular approach to ‘interactive business intelligence’ to create a list of the seven mobile BI best practices – a reasonable checklist on the topic. The little recognized connection to extend this from the capture and reporting on ‘events’ in a conventional reporting or knowledge management manner to embrace new ‘insights’ is social networking.

Let me use an example around real-time insights from social networking from last week here at Capgemini where of course many of my colleagues are based outside our offices creating complex market leading business solutions from fast changing technologies. A colleague in Capgemini Consulting working with a global consumer products group on their in-market use of social CRM was suddenly faced with the need to find Quick Read, Q/R, expertise within 24 hours. It took less than five minutes to find five colleagues with the right experience by checking on our social network using the search facility included in our Yammer platform. All five had posted messages on the topic of Q/R and therefore automatically created ‘bread crumbs’ by which their expertise could be found.

Okay we could capture this in our skills database, but can any company honestly say that they can find the time, or accept the cost, of trying to capture all the dynamics of today’s rapidly changing environment in a conventional structured form? And more to the point what about that most valuable of experience and skills lie around the unstructured and previously less than fully connected communities of mobile workers? The very people who are facing the market and engaging with the customers? These are the very people who find social networking most useful and as the media to collaborate and interact around their daily challenges by sharing their ‘tacit’ knowledge and experience.

Social networking plus mobility creates new unstructured data around the most critical success area for any business which is engagement with customers. Seeing new insights from ‘instrumenting’ front office workers is hugely valuable and it is happening with new products as a previous CTOblog post explained. At this point the bigger question becomes how can I make social networking a success? In the Capgemini example above there is a win-win illustrated that encourages full engagement. The five people who posted on Q/R were demonstrating their interest or involvement in the topic, and as a result of posting were able to get work on the Q/R. In short ‘it pays to advertize’ your expertise by getting involved and actively posting on the Capgemini social network!

A bigger and more thoughtful analysis of success factors for social networking can be found on the Mashable Business site and interestingly does refer to the Capgemini success in this area. So there is an interesting connection: deliver more value sooner in real time big data analysis by using mobility and social networks to increase the amount of data that is readily usable to support this move. Might be an extra dimension to the business case for any of the technologies involved as well!!

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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