Tips for Developing Big Data Advisory and Consulting Services

Dream. Dare. Do – that is Suyati’s work principle in a nutshell.

Oct
16
2015
  • Author:
  • Nayab Naseer

big data advisory

Big data spells big opportunity

Big data unlocks valuable insights about product use, customer buying habits, trends, effective marketing tactics, latent demand, and much more. However, to access such insights, companies still need to know how to leverage their structured and unstructured data, and subject them to big data analytics. This is easier said than done, considering that big data analytics is an entirely new terrain for most companies. Enter Big Dataconsulting services, a trendy new business opportunity for those with the know-how.

IDC estimates the big data technology and services market growing at a 27% compound annual growth rate, to touch $32.4 billion through 2017 – six times the growth rate of the overall information and communication technology market.

Here are some tips to get a slick of this pie.

Do Not Overlook the Basics

The basic preparatory tasks before any big data project can launch include

  1. Aggregating data from various sources and silos
  2. Establishing processes for the seamless flow of dataacross the enterprise
  3. Sifting relevant data from the mass by applying datainsights or assessing the worth of data
  4. Ensuring data quality

Easy as it sounds, not many companies are equipped to handle such works, offering great scope for data consultants and solution providers.

Moreover, the new technologies to deal with big data are actually a throwback to the old days which were programmer-centric, as opposed to the plug-and-play model that is the norm now. Big Data requires a lot of Java, something many companies actually hived off, thinking it as having run its shelf life.

Many larger companies have mature data warehousing facilities, but don’t know what exactly to do with it. The role of the BigData consultant here is to help such companies figure out how they can launch a big data initiative inside the infrastructure and get ROI out of it.

Get the Positioning Right

Processing data constitutes the core of big data analytics, but bigdata goes beyond that. Many companies, even when they have the technology, capability, and will to analyze data, do not know what data assets they have, or how to make use of them. Some companies are simply technologically challenged.

Big data represents the next stage of evolution from the legacy concepts of business intelligence and data warehousing. The core concept, of integrating data from diverse sources, managing such data, and scaling it economically, is not entirely new. Big data builds on this basic technology, by integrating a business-savvy angle to data processing, and leveraging the latest and emerging technologies, especially open-source technologies, to process the data. In the past, such a process was feasible only for very large organizations, and required extensive resources. Big data makes this process democratic, more structured, cheaper, and easily accessible.

Big Data consultants can help companies assess their data assets and formulate a comprehensive ROI linked data plan in conjunction with the overall business plan – in other words, how to subject data to analytics, to realize want they want to achieve. Design a detailed road map that lays down the long-term vision for Big Data.

While legacy data processing was extensive and all-encompassing, processing the data first and extracting whatever information that came by its way, big data analytics specifically addresses what the market asks for, or has a specific end in mind upfront. Big data consulting is essentially picking up a business problem and finding the right technology or solution to solve it. The onus is on big data consultants to unearth big dataopportunities by applying design thinking, and leveraging advanced data science to uncover latent signals and trends signaling competitive advantage for the business. For example,big data analytics may be used to help a manufacturing firm determine parts of the supply chain causing defects, or to help a utility provider determine the extent of theft in power transmission.

Again, for all the buzz about big data analytics, the concept is still fluid and business cases are still forming. The reference architectures, business use cases, and how to use the technology are still in a process of evolution. Such uncertainty presents opportunities for IT channel companies to innovate.

Tweetable quote: “Success of Big data analytics is not finding out what to do with available data. It is rather applying right data to solve real problems.”

Be True to Self

IT providers looking to offer big data services need to be true to their self. Big data services are a wide field, covering an entire gamut from data assessments to business strategy to implementation.

There are several generic niches available in big data analytics, such as customer analytics, marketing analytics, marketing research, web analytics, social media and text analytics, operations analysis, pricing and sales analytics, visualizations, and more. Several businesses, including systems integrators, IT consultants, PR firms, survey research firms, brand management firms, marketing firms and business consultants offer all or part of these.  Success depends on identifying a genuine underlying issue and using big data technology to address it. However, the consultant has to be competent enough to do this the right way first.

It pays to do a self-assessment and be honest about one’s own skill level, and offering only those services which constitute strong points. The adage “Do not bite off more than you can chew” is very relevant here. Biting more than what one can chew could result in a bad customer experience and being locked out of the market.

Success ultimately depends on the extent of differentiation a firm can offer from the services offered by competitors. The ultimate differentiator is competence and good relationship with the customer. Success depends not on advising the different possibilities, but on knowing when to steer customers away from a solution that will be beneficial and may be an unnecessary expense for them.

Grow up with the Technology

Big Data technologies, the most popular ones being Hadoop and SQL databases, are scaled-out architectures with nodes geared toward the needs of data that accumulates rapidly and have less value per capita. Such structures are relatively new in the IT environment, and come with a learning curve.

Certifications in big data competencies are valuable, but only so much. Certifications reveal that the resource person has an understanding of the technology, the strong points, and the pain points. But nothing beats the power of experience, or a few projects under the belt. Only the power of experience equips a resource person with insights on glitches and best practices, from an implementation point of view.  For instance, learning Hadoop is one thing, understanding where it fits well and where it doesn’t is quite another, and holds the key to success.

Systems integrators, value-added resellers and service providers are in a good position to take advantage of Big Data consulting services market, as they already have familiarity and experience in related areas. New solution providers short on experience may gather case studies and proof points from engagements as some substitute for experience. However, firms short on such background and experience can still develop a consulting practice if they work hard enough and are willing to shell out enough money. Only they need to progress incrementally, starting with the basics, such as data management practice or database development work and get experience under their belt before jumping into more complex types of analytics under thebig data scope.

Again, as the big data field is constantly evolving and still not settled, what matters more than certifications that prove competency in legacy technology, is the acquisition and competence in latest cutting edge technology. Growing up with the technology benefits today’s IT channel partners immensely in this regard.

Start Looking

With all the bases covered, getting businesses would not be abig problem, considering that even the smallest businesses are generating so much data internally. Work backwards from the goals of the customer, and target ones which have clear and pressing needs.

Entrenched solution providers would do well to start looking for opportunities among existing customers. The familiarity would make it easier to apply insights and highlight opportunities.

Success in delivering big data advisory and consulting services requires a proactive approach. Companies may not exactly come calling seeking solutions, because in many cases they may not even be aware problems exist. Big data consultants need to have an understanding of the possibilities with available technology, provoke thinking, and make customers realize latent possibilities with the available technology.

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