Big Data, Big Challenges: Top Four Frustrating the C-Suite

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Sheldon_Smit_XOIn this special guest feature, Sheldon Smith of XO Communications describes the challenges that many businesses face when it comes to big data, in particular the top four challenges frustrating the C-suite. Sheldon is a Senior Product Manager at XO Communications. XO is a nationwide provider of advanced IP communications and IT infrastructure services for business including more than half of the Fortune 500. At XO, Sheldon acts as the key point of contact for all strategic vendor partnerships and he manages much of XO’s solutions portfolio. 

The big data market is on track to reach more than $46 billion by 2018. It’s no surprise; the term is used across industries and verticals alike with every provider offering their own take on how companies can leverage this stream of constantly generated information and get ahead of the curve. What many don’t talk about, however, are the big challenges that come with big data, the struggles that frustrate C-suite executives and make ROI seem impossibly distant. Here’s a look at the top four and how your company can put the brakes on a big data tailspin:


As noted by Entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges for companies looking to manage their big data environment is talent. While businesses have no problem spending where warranted on new technologies and personnel to handle this information influx, a McKinsey Global report found that by 2018, there will be a need for 1.7 million data experts who simply don’t exist. The result? Many companies are playing the “salary game” hoping to lure new talent directly out of post-secondary institutions and avoid this job market crunch. While this isn’t a bad way to do business, it’s worth considering extra training for current IT professionals — even as a stopgap — rather than spending big on unknown talent prospects.


In 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney first described the “three V’s” of big data: Volume, variety and velocity. They’re now used as a kind of litmus test — the amount of data must be substantial, come from multiple sources, and be generated quickly to qualify it as “big.” Though two of these V’s, volume and velocity, often cause problems for C-suite executives who need answers about probable causes and likely outcomes right now, not in 12 hours, two days or a week. Time is the enemy of efficacy when it comes to big data; decisions based on real-time data are far more likely to generate profitable results. The key to handling this challenge? Bandwidth. Be willing to either spend on infrastructure that can manage the load and speed, or give this responsibility to a reputable provider.


According to the Wall Street Journal, technology also presents a challenge when it comes to managing big data. There are two pain points here: Evolving analysis and reporting methods, and the specter of system failure. While evolving technologies point to better end results for corporate analytics, they’re also worrisome for decision-makers — how much will another deployment cost, and will it play nicely with existing systems? Hardware and connectivity failures, meanwhile, are more difficult to control but just as worrisome. What happens if servers or networks suddenly stop working; what’s the realistic recovery time objective and the hour-to-hour cost of such an outage?

Best bet? Find a robust, redundant provider that offers business continuity solutions for your big data needs and is also able to scale up or out on demand to meet emerging technology developments.


Where does your data come from? As noted by the MIT Technology Review, the use of multiple data sources — while great for end results — can be crippling for security. With most companies still adopting outdated, firewall-based approaches to data security and 44 percent of businesses reporting that they have no information governance policy in place, it’s no wonder that data is at risk. The solution? Tenacity. Companies must tenaciously pursue a big data policy that covers any source, any analysis and any outcome. This is no easy task, and often benefits from expert assistance, but is critical to keep your data safe.

Want to make better use of big data and generate real-time, actionable insight? Remember the four-T challenges: Talent, time, technology and tenacity. Master them all for maximum return.


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