Is it time to hire a Chief Data Officer?

Add some more room in the Executive Suite: Big Data experts are moving in. 

According to analyst Gartner, 17 percent of companies will have hired a Chief Data Officer (CDO) by years end, an acknowledgement of the growing importance that information analytics have in business. While in the past, these responsibilities could have been handled by a Chief Information Officer (CIO), the proliferation of Big Data has made managing it an important full-time job. 

Gartner senior analyst Debra Logan explained this necessity. 

"The CIO role is overloaded with expectations and responsibilities," said Logan. "CIOs are expected to have hands-on experience in technology, leading change management programs and project management."

Thus, to offset some of that burden and help CIOs manage their other goals, this new position has been rising in popularity. The role of the Chief Data Officer is more than just teaching your employees how to use FileMaker. Rather, the position helps organize and guide your company's analytical and information-based efforts. While having access to vast amounts of data is a potentially powerful tool, it's equally important to use it in a productive and judicious manner. 

It's important that the information doesn't end with the CDO. Instead, this role can be a valuable connector of different departments, and should become a useful liaison between the piles of numbers you're able to collect, and the financial officers who have to make sense of it all. This person could potentially serve as an advisor and an analyst, somebody who can make sense of what could otherwise be misleading data. 

What managers need to know about Big Data

Big Data has some powerful potential benefits, but in order to fully take advantage of them, managers must understand their implications. The proliferation of such a vast amount of information has changed the very currency of business: now, knowledge plays a huge role in how effective companies can be. 

And that knowledge doesn't always have to come from expertise anymore. Tasks which used to take a skilled technician to complete can now be almost entirely automated. Let's say, for example, that you manage a fleet of vehicles. In the not-so-distant past, you'd have to have a mechanic readily available for regular maintenance visits. Now, however, there are hundreds of data points that can be automatically collected and sent to you, thus cutting down significantly on the need for an expert consultation. 

Instead, the role of the technician comes in how the systems are designed and analyzed. While FileMaker development can help you identify what's wrong with your cars, it can't actually get its hands under the hood. It also needs to be "told" which parameters to look out for, something that comes from personal input. Thus, human and technological capital have to work in tandem. 

This capability also means that data, and the access to it, is a form of currency all its own. Consider the case of Google, which has built a billion dollar company based on its ability to both connect users with the information that they seek and gather data from those same consumers. If your business isn't considering the financial implications of knowing considerably more about potential customers, you're doing yourself a serious disservice. 

At the same time, privacy and security concerns have to be at the forefront of all the decisions you make. It's important to let people know exactly what sorts of information you're collecting about them, and for what intended purpose. Then, once you have it, it's critical to take steps to ensure that none of that data gets leaked. If people suspect that their personal information is vulnerable when given to you, your brand could suffer irreparable damage. 

Like anything else, you will get out of Big Data only what you put into it. If you're willing to invest heavily and learn more about how it can help you, the benefits could potentially be massive. 

The physical side of Big Data

When you think about Big Data, your mind might immediately wander to floating clouds of numbers. That image wouldn't be entirely misguided: one of the biggest advantages of analytics is that you don't need to look at every single piece of paper to form actionable conclusions. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't a physical side to Big Data. 

One of the most common uses of this sort of technology is for fitness apps. Using a small, GPS-enabled device, you can track your runs, set the best possible pace and scope out goals that you want to achieve. The tracker can clip onto your body, and goes everywhere that you do. In this sense, it very much exists in the physical world. However, instead of you then having to painstakingly write out all of your times by hand, you can immediately have them uploaded and see exactly how much you're progressing. 

This sort of custom web application development isn't just limited to runners, either. You can monitor your heart rate, test your temperature and even modulate your blood sugar with technologies that blend the physical sensation of wearing a device with the analytical power of databases. 

These advancements could very well have a positive effect on the health care industry. Instead of having to wait for an appointment, or being forced to go through a long battery of tests, you could have your everyday actions automatically uploaded. If anything is amiss, the app could notify both you and your doctor that it might be time for a checkup. Not only would it save time and money, it could also wind up saving your life. 

What the White House needs to ask about Big Data

Big Data has had a transformative effect on the efficacy of business, so it's no wonder that the government would take note. That's exactly what's happening at the White House, which announced recently that it was forming a task force to study its effects, including those on policy, privacy and society. Not surprisingly, getting a full handle on custom web application development isn't easy. There is a lot of information floating around, and the industry moves quickly. To get the most out of this investigation, it will be important for the White House to focus on answering the right questions. 

While privacy and security are both pressing concerns, it's important that the White House is able to accurately evaluate the distinction. The former refers to how much data companies have access to and store, and the latter refers to how safe that information is kept from interlopers. In order to accurately create a policy to address both concerns, they first have to be considered separately. 

It's also worthwhile to figure out what exactly it means to be personal. With the amount of things people are now willing and able to share about themselves, the notion of what is for public consumption has shifted. If a group wants to use Big Data ethically, there needs to be a firm policy in place to learn what is fair game. 

Finally, the government has to understand that Big Data isn't just about what's happening today. It's also about where the industry is going in the future, and creating a system that is able to identify and adapt to shifts is the key to continued success. 

Without a centralized approach you run the risk of poor quality

Innovation in the mobile industry, coupled with the ever-emerging “Internet of Things,” has significantly enhanced the data collection process. Today, there are far more channels than ever before that can be used to obtain and hold information. But, does this make data management any better? One study says no.

According to a new report from Experian Data Quality, the number of channels we use to collect data can actually hinder management processes, resulting in poor and inaccurate information. Businesses that fail to take a centralized approach to data processing are more prone to human error. According to the study, 67 percent of organizations are missing this component of their data management processes.

“The increasing sheer volume of data means that more companies are looking to make better-informed decisions based on the information they hold,” Thomas Schutz, senior vice president, general manager of Experian Data Quality, said in a statement. “Data quality is the foundation for any data-driven effort, but the quality of information globally is poor. Organizations need to centralize their approach to data management to ensure information can be accurately collected and effectively utilized in today’s cross-channel environment.”

Ultimately, companies that pull in information from all different directions and don’t centralize their management of it may not have the ability to identify errors and make necessary adjustments to improve the quality of their data. This is where having a custom database software system in place can provide an enormous benefit to your organization. FileMaker development can be used to create a centralized system for examining and organizing information, which allows you to separate the good from the bad and improve the overall quality of your data.

Is small thinking hurting your big data strategy?

Big data has become so prominent in the corporate lexicon that some individuals may mistakenly think they have a firm handle on the concept, when in fact their understanding is far short of where it needs to be. Even worse, many business managers are thinking about big data the wrong way, which can significantly limit the effectiveness of their data management strategies. 

An article in GigaOM suggests these people are thinking small about big data, asking questions that don't allow them to capitalize on the value of their information. According to the piece, questions like "how do we store all of this data" and "what's a different way to analyze this" represent the kind of thinking that hinders an organization's big data progress.

"This is small thinking. And it's dangerous," the article says. "Focusing on the technology and new forms of data in isolated and abstract ways will ultimately limit the value. Instead, organizations should be searching for ways to incorporate big data and data science into their existing capabilities. Preexisting business intelligence activities still have value but can be enhanced by adding new big data capabilities."

The key is to find ways to incorporate big data into your current operations and utilize it to your advantage. This might require the development of systems designed to facilitate big data management. FileMaker developers who can conduct custom Web application development have the ability to deliver systems to collect, manage and store information, all in a virtual environment, which allow you to capitalize on your information growth.

Big Data helps support vaccination policies

In many public debates, there's a certain fallacy of balance. Two sides are presented as though they're equally valid, and the answer is presumed to lie somewhere in the middle. Television, especially, exacerbates this notion: when you give both sides of an argument equal time and platform, regardless of their factual basis, it presents them as equally legitimate. 

Such is the current problem with the vaccination debate. Thanks to a few high-profile naysayers, the notion that inoculation is bad for children has gained a firm toehold in our national discussion. Even some notable celebrities have gone on record stressing the link between vaccines and the incidence of autism.

Thanks to Big Data, however, those arguments can be squashed much more easily. Using custom database software, physicians can directly model the negative effects of not having children vaccinated, and accurately estimate the number of preventable deaths that are caused by an unwillingness to seek this type of medical treatment. They can likewise dispute the claims that there exists any connection to autism. In fact, the website of the Mayo Clinic now bluntly dispels that. 

"Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven't found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted. Although signs of autism may appear at about the same time children receive certain vaccines — such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine — this is simply a coincidence," explains the site. 

This knowledge goes much further than a debate on television. A more thorough understanding of the benefits of vaccinations has been proven to save lives, and Big Data is helping to make that happen.

How Big Data changed Google’s workforce

Google is flush with data. It collects millions of interactions each day, from people trying to find the best healthcare insurance to those just looking for a decent bite to eat. It stands to reason, then, that the company would use some of those capabilities to help its own internal processes. 

Among the most important of those is hiring. Having the right employees is a critical part of effectively realizing your goals, and that starts with the candidate identification process. In Google's case, analytics helped the company identify that the most valuable candidates don't always come from traditional recruitment channels.

Once they were in the interviewing stage, Big Data still proved helpful. One of the major takeaways from their research was that rather than asking a series of random hypothetical questions, it was more important to figure out the behavioral trends of the person being considered. Curating questions that got to the real core of how a person is likely to adjust to a scenario was a much more valuable selection tool than simply asking, "what is your biggest weakness?"

Finally, Big Data helped in the actual hiring. In a company of that size, it can be very difficult to maintain a strongly unified company culture. By ceding some of the guesswork involved to analytics, Google is able to better pick out who will fit in. 

The same principles could very well apply to a company smaller than Google. FileMaker support could revolutionize the way you make hires, and help to mold a staff that fits well into the culture of your company and does reliably excellent work. 

Hadoop’s new release could have transformative impact

When it comes to Big Data, the only real constant is change. The field is always evolving in new and interesting ways, as businesses try to figure out how best they can leverage the massive amount of information currently available to them. Indeed, one of the primary concerns of Filemaker consultants is staying abreast of new best practices and how to deploy them. 

Hadoop's release of the second version of its powerful analytics tool is the sort of update that could very well alter the way businesses approach Big Data. The 2.0 version, which became available in October, supplements cloud-based information storage with the sort of on-premise collection that could lead to further discovery in the future. This new version also frees the software from the need to process in batches, and allows it to work almost in real-time. 

One of the reasons that Hadoop 2.0 is so potentially exciting is that it dovetails neatly with the logic behind the Big Data stack. In addition to the initial technology, developers will be able to build out from it to make even more powerful software. Merv Adrian, an analyst with Garnter, Inc., described the potential of this process. 

"As people gain experience, we expect them to build larger projects," Adrian said during a recent webinar. 

This newest Hadoop iteration isn't without its flaws. The security protocols aren't yet perfect, especially because the data is being populated from public bases. This potential for risk is part of why privacy is already a big concern this year, and looks to be of high interest for the company's foreseeable future. 

How big data can be used to overcome business mistakes

The phrases "accidents happen" and "nobody's perfect" have been staples of our lexicon for quite some time, and they apply in a number of scenarios, including at work. Ultimately, businesses will make mistakes, and no organization is immune to the chance accident, regardless of its stature in its respective industry.

The companies that are most successful in 2014 aren't the ones that never make a mistake because, quite frankly, those types of organizations don't exist. The truly successful businesses are able to overcome their errors. Today, recovery can be facilitated by having the right data at your disposal.

Custom database software can give companies an edge because of their ability to identify errors in their data, which allows users to adjust accordingly. Without the hard information needed to definitively pinpoint when, where and how a mistake took place, companies will not be as successful overcoming any obstacles spurred by their mistakes. It's likely that the error was made unknowingly, so if it isn't identified quickly, it could linger, thus resulting in more series consequences down the road. 

With the right FileMaker support, your organization can create a database solution designed to capture your information and allow you to glean pertinent insights into its value. If any mistakes are identified, such as a discrepancy in your inventory numbers, you can mitigate the problem before it proliferates. FileMaker developers possess the ability to create and deliver applications that meet all of your big data needs, including the attenuation of mistakes at your company.