IT Management: The Petabyte Era

The era of “big data” brings new data management and data mining challenges, but just as many opportunities.

Romi Mahajan

Gigabytes are for amateurs. Terabytes are child’s play. We have arrived at the petabyte era.

Surely you’ve been inundated with proclamations about the era of “big data.” You’ve probably seen scores of articles on big data and what it means for business and technology. You might even have colleagues now known as “data scientists.” That new title is all the rage in Silicon Valley and within the IT ranks of the cutting-edge enterprise.

This shift in data storage, data management and data philosophy is epic. Companies that understand how to manage, mine and decipher big data will prosper. Those that don’t will be left by the wayside.

There’s a great deal of merit to what’s being said of big data, its offshoots and the implications. The amount of content and data on the Internet, on the social Web and within corporate systems and corporate collaboration systems is growing at an exponential rate.

More than 90 percent of this data is unstructured and asyntactic. In the case of the social Web, it represents emotion and sentiment versus binary facts. It’s in a constant cycle of generation and regeneration. This explosion of data and content is a worldwide phenomenon from which there is no respite.

And while “big” doesn’t necessarily or always mean important, it absolutely does in this case. Big does translate directly to important because organizations and individuals have the potential to unlock enormous amounts of value from this “Big Bang” of data.

This includes using data and information on brand equity, product direction and reputation. Digging deeper takes you into areas like predictive analytics, ad-matching and contextual content provision. In this way, you can take big data to the next level. This level can truly transform how global business is managed.

Just to be absolutely clear, this trend is real. It’s not merely the fanciful creation of smart marketers. As with all such trends, different parts of the organization will be called on to play different roles in the value-creation process.

While much has already been written about big data, articles about the role of IT in this phenomenon are scant. There are significant roles and opportunities for the IT department in managing data and business in the petabyte era.

Core Components

There are three core areas in which the role of IT is paramount: data management and mining, business re-architecture, and cultural transformation.

Data Management and Mining: The more data that exists and the more that data is in chaos, the more important translation systems are to future success. We rely on IT to manage these translation systems and to innovate and improve on both the systems and the translation processes. Furthermore, the task of presenting “smart data” so as to enlighten enterprise leadership falls squarely in the lap of systems engineers. This level of IT professional represents IT at its finest, and it exemplifies how IT can lead the way in converting big data from theory to everyday reality.

Business Re-Architecture: Ideas are indeed powerful, but action is even more so. “Making it real” is priceless. The key to the architecture of tomorrow’s organization is actual data and process integration. The social Web has to be part of every system and every job, not just in theory but in practice. In other words, every system with which today’s knowledge worker interacts has to be “social-aware.” Only IT can close this gap between idea and reality. This gets us to the era of The Social Enterprise, in which the big data that resides outside the corporate firewall is used adroitly and expediently by all members of the organization.

Cultural Transformation: This is a new era of business and technology processes. We’re moving into a new phase of the evolutionary scale. As such, the culture of dynamism and the cycle of constant reaction/action/innovation upon which IT thrives is critical to any organization’s sustainability and success. IT can teach the rest of the organization a great deal about adapting to rapid change. IT molts its skin faster than any other department, and other departments need to learn how to adapt to and take advantage of the transformations coming with the petabyte era.

IT often is the unsung hero, and the lost opportunities for IT to assume its rightful position at the fore of the corporation have been numerous. As the modern enterprise enters the petabyte era, it can be IT’s time to shine. All IT professionals must embrace this challenge and familiarize themselves with the steps they need to take to leverage these emerging opportunities.

Here are some steps to help you realize this potential:

  1. Learn about big data and data science. O’Reilly Media’s Data Science Starter Kit is a good place to start. Please note, many of these titles are available as e-books, so you don’t have to break the bank to learn about this.
  2. Think “out of the corporate box.” Think about accessing and filtering data from the world outside the perimeters of your corporate systems.
  3. Help the rest of your organization derive meaning from the ocean of big data. This will enhance their productivity and their effectiveness.
  4. Discuss the role of IT in enabling the petabyte era. Being proactive is being powerful.

Embrace the opportunities inherent to the petabyte era and you will find opportunities for generating value at nearly every level of the data lifecycle.

Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan is president of KKM Group. Prior to joining KKM, Mahajan was chief marketing officer of Ascentium Corp. A well-known speaker on the technology and media circuit, he serves on a variety of advisory boards and speaks at more than a dozen industry events per year.