The title of this blog may seem somewhat sensationalist (probably). It was driven by my recent retail consumer navigation (“last minute present time”), common to many through the Christmas season to date. And the aforementioned “valuable currency”, first off to avoid the numerous cries of foul, I will eliminate the obvious and fundamental elements for life (air, food, etc) from the rather grand boast of the title. But I hope on conclusion of this brief scribble its clear why I hold this special “currency” in such high regard.
From the dawn of not just modern society, but any society, humans traded in some way, shape or form. Sellers sought to seller their wares to buyers keen to buy (and sometimes not so keen) with the optimum marriage, a product available for sale at the perfect time (and price) to a surplus number of buyers. The final element has remained the sales Holy Grail and to realise that seller buyer perfect relationship the profession of marketing rose from the ashes with the impossible task of stargazing the wants needs and desires of all. That truly impossible task became probable as marketers leveraged science and human psychology to bind products to potential target customers and often with amazing degrees of effectiveness and accuracy. But still when questioned industry leaders continued to question marketing effectiveness often citing return on investment and other metric driven formulae for less than perfect results. Until now….
Through the advent of a perfect storm of IT systems at the right price / performance levels, secure enterprise grade connectivity “everywhere”, advanced analytical algorithms / models with near human insight, data structures / repositories capable of previously unimagined data storage / manipulation and finally digital data generated by “things” we now have realised our own “digital alchemy” use to create the most valuable currency ever – “big data”.
At this point after such a monumental build up, the temptation for you to yawn and hit delete may appear (suppress it), but that is somewhat premature with more of the story to unfold.
My Christmas social and retail journey is a current storyboard of the stealth like use of big data today that helps to optimise many of my interactions with people and systems. Websites that know who I am and offer me gift ideas aligned with the season for friends and family based on my past purchases and an awareness of their demographic. Retail stores track my in store movement as a mobile user and leverage my location and browsing habits to make products for sale more attractive to me (via price or enhanced visibility). Payment systems utilise my smart watch which in turn leverages multiple data driven security authorisation/authentication and financial information stores to validate me based on behaviour, location and activity to confirm that I have indeed attempted a financial transaction. I could continue and include my previously low tech bank debit card that has now unleashed via contactless transactions has the potential to be much much more in future. And the unifying factors behind it all, secure network connectivity of people to things to allow them to do previously unimagined “things” but with real-time availability / accessibility to a bordering on human store of digital data insight we now called “big data”. The highly pervasive, always on, now always everywhere, NETWORK is making big data – bigger!
Big data is no longer a “fad” or something leveraged by others – it is fast becoming “the” most “valuable currency” ever. It has the potential to digitally stargaze via advanced data analysis & data joins and deliver a result at an accuracy level and a speed impossible for a human (or banks of humans) to achieve (have a quick look at IBM Watson). Now is the time to make big data less of a conversation for technologists and instead the heartbeat of business. At Computacenter we are not waiting, we deem it so paramount we have our own data analytics Chief Technologist (welcome Aleem Cummings, look out for his blog). The importance enterprises are now placing on the need to leverage and maximise big data to propel business forward makes it a top “C suite” priority.
The network provides the secure connectivity layer to allow “things” to interact with other “things” and for humans to personally, socially and emotionally benefit from that interaction (I promise no mention of IOT, ooops too late). And the information created with that data whether small or big will be the “digital currency” that delivers evidence based proof of value.
Big data doesnt just help to create / find answers its so valuable it can be extracted and traded in its own right. And if this digital, big data is such a value personal and business asset, validated security and secure interaction becomes a precursor to future success. “but is it?”. One for another day I think.
Until next time
Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2016
Colin W @colinccuk – Chief Technologist, Networking, Security and UC.
I remember the days when using awk, sed and grep on a log file was a really powerful way to extract useful data to help troubleshoot issues, or better plan a complex application deployment and management.
Now the amount of data that is generated by systems, applications and devices has proliferated to the extent that we are unable to use the old techniques to get information from the systems managed today.
A popular route for analysts is to download software on their laptops to help with this challenge and one of the more popular choices is visual analytics from Splunk. This personal need and learning has driven a “Shadow IT” style of adoption of the tool for Operational Intelligence in organisations. The Computacenter UK Infrastructure Operations team experienced some early success in this very manner. The initial benefits were amazing, but thought was needed on how to evaluate it as a corporate tool in order to drive operational efficiency and intelligence across the Global Managed Services Business.
On consideration of using a traditional approach for a proof of concept and pilot phase, which would take weeks to plan and more time to execute, it was decided to try a different approach. Something more agile was needed in order to benefit from quick results, the ability to test the software, its ease of use, and the other business benefits it could drive.
So with a little gamification and the flexibility of our Solutions Center, a competition was conceived…
The competition was to run for four-weeks only between teams from across the Computacenter Group. The challenge was to use Splunk’s visual analytics tool to address a Managed Services business problem in four weeks with just an afternoon’s worth of training. The teams were based in the UK, Germany, South Africa, Hungary and Spain, from both Service Desk and Infrastructure Operations.
All participants were given an overview of the tool and as mentioned before, half a day training which was run from the Solutions Center in Hatfield and broadcast across to the other countries via live presentation and video feed. A central infrastructure was provided with the software pre-installed.
The results were amazing, all the participants were data analysts so knew exactly what they wanted to get out of their data and were able to visualise it in the short space of time given to them. With varying help from Splunk experts, all were able to create compelling business-relevant dashboards, in just four weeks with very little training and while still doing their operational day jobs.
The results have allowed us to view what the art of the possible can be and now we can start further planning the use of this innovation driving software.