The data challenge across multiple industries


When you Google “big data,” you get big data about big data.

We are living in the age of information overload, which creates many challenges, including big data, information silos and integration issues. It was my great pleasure to introduce a panel of experts at The Premier Business Leadership Series to discuss these issues.

The panel consisted of:

  • Bryan Harris, Chief Technology Officer, VSTI
  • M. Paige Borden, PhD, Assistant Vice President, Institutional Knowledge Management (IKM), University of Central Florida (UCF)
  • Gary Hayes, Chief Information Officer and Vice President, CenterPoint Energy

Renee Nocker, Director, Technology Product Marketing, SAS moderated the panel.

Dr. Borden sees part of her role as educating folks in her organization about how to ask smart questions and leverage all the university’s data to make better decisions. Hayes too has seen an industry that is experiencing a huge upsurge of data from, for example, smart meters - a resource not only for the energy business, but for the consumer too. Harris brings a slightly different perspective – from working with public security professionals who have to seek intelligence from a huge pool of data noise - and find where some of the most critical information is being deliberately hidden.

Borden stressed the importance of superb data quality at UCF. If the data is unreliable, it is very difficult to impress on leaders to make fact-based decisions based on the data and 'buy in' is critical to any big data / big analytics projects.

For Hayes, the issue is not big data, but the explosion in both the interconnection of sources and the consumption of data that cause challenges. In my view, this describes a big bang of big data: a challenge both of scale and speed. At the same time, organisations are struggling to develop the analytical skills quickly to get the full value of the data the they have access to.

Harris thinks that we are heading away from an intelligence world where “search based on three keywords” is being replaced by analytical approaches where relevance is an integral part of the conversation and contextualised content takes priority over popularity and ranking. This in turn will require new skill sets for those who make decisions. Hayes sees this as the ability to perceive what tools and techniques apply to solve specific business problems. For Borden this is compounded by a lack of resources.

In response to a question from Nocker about some of the key strategies being deployed for the future, Borden says that UCF are using their project to drive new ways of modeling success for their organisation based on reliable, timely, deep data. For Harris it was about having more granular conversations based on the use of analytics and when you apply them - bridging the chasm between analysts and executives. Hayes shared th much of their strategy is emerging as they deploy: as challenges are addressed new opportunities present themselves. This does not mean it is haphazard, but that they have out in place the resources to learn-by-doing.

To prove the business case for big data analytics, Hayes focused the company’s attention on addressing specific business requests in partnership with IT. Harris saw the challenge for his team to be part of the solution for their customers, to have a stake in their success. In UCF, the IT function empowered the users to self-serve using the infrastructure.

Finally, big data presents opportunities for bottom-up innovation: it's amazing the ways people will find to use information once it becomes available to them.



About Author

Peter Dorrington

Director, Marketing Strategy (EMEA)

I am the Director of Marketing Strategy for the EMEA region at SAS Institute and have more than 25 years experience in IT and computing systems. My current role is focused on supporting SAS’ regional marketing operations in developing marketing strategies and programs aligned around the needs of SAS’ markets and customers.

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