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3 keys to make Big Data work

A new report reveals essential project components

Feb. 27, 2014 - 03:52PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
SWEDEN-FACEBOOK-DATA-CENTER-SERVERS
Big data requires big data centers, often with thousands of servers and vast amounts of storage. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
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Collaboration, communication and careful planning are key to pulling off “big data” projects successfully, a new report advises.

Before embarking on a new project, for example, chief information officers “should seek out the experience of others” and focus on how the endeavor creates value for the public, according to the report, released Feb. 17 by the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

“Choosing the right opportunity for a big data project is critical,” the report says.

The report, written by Kevin Desouza, an associate professor of public affairs at Arizona State University, comes as big data is attracting increased attention at the federal level, prompted in part by Obama administration research and development launched in 2012.

The label itself is nebulous. Desouza describes big data as an “evolving concept” tied to the growth of data and how it can be used to improve business processes, reduce risk and create customer value. Although the public sector is generally in the early stages of big data efforts, Desouza highlights several federal agencies that are already using analytics to crunch vast amounts of information.

One of Desouza’s examples is the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, which provides overseas crisis response. CSO works with countries at risk from threats such as violent extremists, weapons proliferation, government corruption, and organized crime. The bureau uses data capture technology, with big data providing the information needed to predict trouble and prepare for it.

Government agencies also have to consider privacy and ethical concerns more carefully than businesses, as well as contend with “arcane information systems” not capable of handling big data efforts, the report says.

Key Findings

1. Public agencies are in the early days of their big data efforts.

2. Big data is still thought of as a passing fad by many, an impression CIOs fight.

3. The key big data challenges for most CIOs: Managing large volumes of data, integrating data across database systems and building an analytical capacity to mine data.

4. Some big data projects are now focused on streamlining business processes.

5. CIOs do not expect significant technology investments.

6. CIOs say they need more people, especially those with analytical skills.

7. CIOs are now exploring approaches to data governance.

8. CIOs do not recommend IT units as owners of big data projects.

9. Collaborative leadership is essential for success, CIOs believe, and they recommend creating working groups to oversee projects.

10. CIOs are becoming champions of analytics and evidence-driven decision-making.

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