Does Big Data Have to Be Big?

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Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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One of my hot button issues these days is Big Data.

By many media and vendor accounts, Big Data is simply that: big data. Large volumes of structured or unstructured data the likes of which are generally associated with companies in data-crunching industries like oil and gas, seismology, genomics and finance.

Even Wikipedia defines Big Data as “the collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing.” Continue reading

Is Life in the Fast Lane All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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If House Bill 459 passes the Georgia Senate this spring, starting in July, “slow-poke drivers” on GA highways will be required to get out of the way of faster drivers, else risk being pulled over and ticketed. While bill proponents say the law is all about safety, I wonder.

I just drove an 8-hour stretch on I75 last week from Atlanta to Sarasota, FL, and back, and not once did I encounter a “slow-poke driver” let alone a slow-poke driver who put my life or those of others at risk. Super speeders? Yes. Slow-poke drivers? No.

So, perhaps the bill is just another symptom of a fast world getting even faster. The race to get there (wherever “there” is) faster… and first.

Even in the world of IT, the race to do things faster and easier seems to restart daily, and this applies to those of us on the IT side buying and implementing technology, those on the vendor side developing the technology, as well as those of us straddling both worlds.

But as we all know, faster doesn’t necessarily mean easier—nor does it necessarily mean better or safer… or that you will even win in the end.

In fact, the rush to deploy new technologies can have, and often does have, negative consequences. Similarly, the rush to innovate, particularly for innovation’s sake, can have costly business effects. On the flip side, failing to deploy new technologies or adopt new ways of doing things can have paralyzing business effects.

Without a doubt, keeping pace with technology advances is a delicate dance.

Take cloud. For IT organizations, knowing what do, when to do it and with whom to do it is challenging, to say the least. And while the Dilbert cartoon that’s been circulating on LinkedIn over the past couple of weeks has made many of us chuckle in a “where in this together” kind of way, it also captures a very real picture of the uncertainties life in the cloud can present.

Yes, the pace at which new technologies are coming at us is both exhilarating and a wee-bit scary at times. Market dynamics have changed, and as they have so too have the rules of doing business.

I’ve talked about the shift downstream that organizations that want to compete successfully in today’s digital world are having to make. Larry Downes and Paul Nunes are talking about the new rules of business in their new book Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation. (They’ve proposed a new market adoption model, to replace Roger’s Bell Curve model, that has a whole lot of folks on-line and, my guess is, a whole bunch debating and discussing at business schools talking nation-wide. ) And Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee are talking about life in The Second Machine Age in their book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

Agree with Dawar or not. Agree with Downes and Nunes or not. Agree with Brynjolfsson and McAfee or not. Agree with me or not. Rapid change is coming.

The question that remains is, will life in the fast lane be all that’s it cracked up to be?

Be sure to check back next week when Guy Churchward shares his thoughts on the coming of The Second Machine Age.

 

 

 

 

IT Pay Rises As Roles Shift from Back Office to Boardroom

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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Up, up and away…IT salary and compensation plans are up 5% year-over-year, and are slated to rise another 5% this year, according to TechTarget’s 2013 IT Salary and Careers Survey, released in  December.

Yes, yet more proof that as IT’s center of gravity shifts from the back office to the board room, its value to the business also changes. IT professionals are seen less as cost centers and more as business drivers, and as this happens, IT compensation trends upward.

Fewer companies are “pegging compensation strictly to job position,” writes Linda Lucci, executive editor for SearchCIO. Instead, they are being determined by more traditional business metrics (e.g., economics, industry, culture and ‘financial affordability’ factors), she explains.

In other words, salaries are being tied to business outcomes. This bodes well for IT professionals who get it (i.e., those who understand that their role is strategic first; tactical, second); not so much for those who don’t.

EMH Healthcare‘s IT organization gets it. Walgreen’s CFO gets it. What about you? How do you measure success?

Are you like 18% of TechTarget survey respondents who say they measure success by achieving ROI on projects and technology purchases or are you like the 47% who base success on their ability to help achieve a business goal or outcome?

And what about your company? What business value does it expect from IT/technology projects this year? Is it focused downstream on employee productivity, customer service delivery, etc., or is it focused upstream on product and service creation or delivery?

Do you get it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EMH Healthcare Implements Customer-Focused IT Strategy

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

 

179069079As I was writing last week’s post, I got an email from our social team asking me to take a look at a customer profile one of our internal teams recently put together.

The timing, as it turns out, couldn’t have been more perfect, and the story more in line with the “center of gravity” series I kicked off earlier this month. It’s a great example of the business benefits of a customer-focused IT strategy.

The profile recaps the journey EMH Healthcare went through to upgrade its legacy EMC storage environment. And while the product side of the story is compelling (and, yes, a nod to EMC products and solutions), it’s the  business/customer thread, you’ll want to note. It’s what captured my attention and surely EMH management’s.

By focusing on its customers (i.e., the ends) and not just the products/services it provides/delivers (i.e., the means), EMH IT is delivering measurable business value to the broader organization.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying that products aren’t important; they definitely are. But what I am saying is that IT organizations need to think first about the bigger business picture. They need  to understand what their customers (internal and external) need before they set IT priorities and invest in new products or technologies. (Recall the accidental architecture?)

EMH IT’s goal is to:

  • Improve operational efficiency (traditional IT metric) and responsiveness to patient needs (business-focused metric).

And it’s doing this by:

  • Improving application availability, responsiveness and performance – This expedites patient care, reduces the length of hospital stays and ensures accuracy of information processed at every level in the organization.
  • Simplifying administrative time – This allows the IT team to invest more time in business-optimizing activities (e.g., making sure their IT infrastructure is performing optimally for clinicians, administrators and patients).

I’d say EMH IT has found its business center of gravity, wouldn’t you?

Additional Resources

Customer Profile: EMH Healthcare: Private cloud improves healthcare applications, availability and performance.

Related blog posts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find Your Organization’s Center of Gravity

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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It’s one thing to resolve to find your center of gravity and entirely different thing to change it.

In fact, I’ll wager a bet that like most people and most companies, the problem lies not in intention but in doing. More specifically, knowing what you need to do and how to go about doing it.

You know you need to lose 10 pounds, improve your fitness level, save more money, increase family time, etc. Your organization knows it needs to increase revenue, reduce costs and improve its competitive advantage. However, when it comes to losing the weight or keeping it off or, on the business side, to finding new ways to move the revenue needle, we often fall short.

As creatures of habit, we tend to go about our New Year’s resolutions or fiscal-year planning activities in the same way. We don’t take the time to re-think or change our behaviors.

In fact, I’ll wager a second bet that those of you who made New Year’s resolutions this year not only made the same, or very similar, resolutions as last year, but you’re tackling them in pretty much the same way. Am I right?

Is it any wonder, then, that come February 1, most of us have abandoned our resolutions? Or some businesses stall over time? That IT departments get stuck in the muck?

Our center of gravity shifts. Yes, our literal and figurative bottom-lines change, and those of us (organizations, departments, and individuals) who recognize this and make the necessary adjustments in our doing will benefit more those that don’t. It’s really that simple.

In Tilt, Niraj Dawar explains how the center of gravity for organizations has shifted from upstream to downstream, from products to customers. Moreover, he talks about the change this shift necessitates in the way organizations “think about” and “do” business.

He urges business leaders to think less about “economies of scale” (i.e., how much more product we can sell – “what”) and more about “economies of scope” (i.e., what else do customers need – “how” and “why”). The goal is “getting inside the customer’s mind,” he says. And I couldn’t agree more.

While Dawar’s book may be intended for management teams (Tilt’s intended audience), I contend it’s a must-read up and down the organization… for  IT departments…  for data protection teams. The center of gravity of  IT organization must also shift downstream to the customers (internal and external) it services. (More on this in my next post.)

How do you move your center of gravity?

First, you need to determine your current center of gravity. After all, you wouldn’t set a fitness goal without first determining your current fitness level, right? Okay, well, maybe some would, but best practice is to get a baseline of where you’re at so you have a realistic picture of where you need to go.

Some organizations may find that they are more upstream-focused than they thought; others may find some pockets of (upstream) strongholds and still others may discover that their infrastructures (people, process and technology) belie their intentions, to my initial point.

Whatever the case, the following three questions, pulled directly from Tilt, should help your organization get that baseline. They center on three areas: costs, value and competitive advantage:

  1. Where is the greatest burden of your fixed costs? Is it in your factory, in your R&D [upstream activities], or in [downstream] activities related to customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction?
  2. Which of your activities do your customers most value? Which activities are they most likely to pay a premium for? Which are the reasons for their loyalty? Where do these activities reside on the upstream-downstream spectrum?
  3. Where along the spectrum does your competitive advantage lie? What about your enduring differentiation?

Where does your organization fall? How customer-focused are you? Let me know what you find out @biggarhb, @emcbackup.