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Frank Gilbane interview on Big Data

Big data is something we cover at our conference and this puzzles some given our audience of content managers, digital marketers, and IT, so I posted Why Big Data is important to Gilbane Conference attendees on gilbane.com to explain why. In the post I also included a list of the presentations at Gilbane Boston that address big data. We don’t have a dedicated track for big data at the conference but there are six presentations including a keynote.

I was also interviewed on the CMS-Connected internet news program about big data the same week, which gave me an opportunity to answer some additional questions about big data and its relevance to the same kind of  audience. There is still a lot more to say about this, but the post and the interview combined cover the basics.

The CMS-Connected show was an hour long and also included Scott and Tyler interviewing Rob Rose on big data and other topics. You can see the entire show here, or just the 12 twelve minute interview with me below.

Why Big Data is important to Gilbane Conference attendees

If you think there is too much hype, and gratuitous use of the term, big data, you haven’t seen anything yet. But don’t make the mistake of confusing the hype with how fundamental and how transformational big data is and will certainly be. Just turn your hype filter to high and learn enough about it to make your own judgements about how it will affect your business and whether it is something you need to do something about now, or monitor for future planning.

As I said yesterday in a comment on a post by Sybase CTO Irfan Khan Gartner dead wrong about big data hype cycle (with a response from Gartner):

However Gartner’s Hype Cycle is interpreted I think it is safe to say that most, including many analysts, underestimate how fundamental and how far-reaching big data will be. How rapidly its use will evolve, and in which applications and industries first, is a more difficult and interesting discussion. The twin brakes of a shortage of qualified data scientist skills and the costs and complexities of IT infrastructure changes will surely slow things down and cause disillusionment. On the other hand we have all been surprised by how fast some other fundamental changes have ramped up, and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service) will certainly help accelerate things. There is also a lot more big data development and deployment activity going on than many realize – it is a competitive advantage after all.

There is also a third “brake” which is all the uncertainty around privacy issues. There is already a lot of consumer data that is not being fully used because of fear of customer backlash or new regulation and, one hopes, because of a degree of respect for consumer’s privacy.

Rob Rose expanded on some specific concerns of marketers in a recent post Big Data & Marketing – It’s A Trap!, including the lack of resources for interpreting even the current mostly website analytics data marketers already have. It’s true, and not just for smaller companies. In addition there are at least four requirements for making big data analytics accessible to marketers that are largely beyond the reach of most current organizations.

Partly to the rescue is Big Data as a Service BDaaS (one of the more fun-sounding acronyms). BDaaS is going to be a huge business. All the big technology infrastructure firms are getting involved and all the analytics vendors will all have cloud and big data services. There are also many new companies including some surprises. For example, after developing its own Hadoop-based big data analytics expertise Sears created subsidiary MetaScale to provide BDaaS to other enterprises. Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital Ventures predicts that the confluence of big data and marketing will lead to several new multi-billion dollar companies and I think he is right.

But while big data is important for the marketers, content managers, and IT who attend our conference because of the potential for enhanced predictive analytics and content marketing. The reach and value of big data applications is far broader than marketing – executives need to understand the potential for new efficiencies, products and businesses. The well-known McKinsey report “Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity” (free) is a good place to start. If you are in the information business I focus on that in my report Big-Data: Big Deal or Just Big Buzz? (not free).

Big data presentations at Gilbane Boston

This year we have six presentations on big data, two devoted to big data and marketing and all chosen with an eye towards the needs of our audience of marketers, content strategists, and IT. You can find out more about these presentations, including their date and time on the conference program.

Keynote

Bill Simmons, CTO, DataXu
Why Marketing Needs Big Data

Main Conference Presentations

Tony Jewitt, VP Big Data Solutions at Avalon Consulting, LLC
“Big Data” 101 for Business

Bryan Bell, Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, Expert System
Semantics and the Big Data Opportunity

Brian Courtney, General Manager of Operations Data Management, GE Intelligent Platforms
Leveraging Big Data Analytics

Darren Guarnaccia, Senior VP, Product Marketing, Sitecore
Big Data: What’s the Promise and Reality for Marketers?

Stefan Andreasen, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Kapow Software
Big Data: Black Hole or Strategic Value?

Update: There is now a video of me being interviewed on big data by CMS-Connected.

Right Fitting Enterprise Search: Content Must Fit Like a Glove

This story brought me up short: Future of Data: Encoded in DNA by Robert Lee Hotz in the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 16, 2012. It describes how “…researchers encoded an entire book into the genetic molecules of DNA, the basic building block of life, and then accurately read back the text.” The article then went on to quote Harvard University’s project senior researcher, molecular geneticist, George Church as saying, “A device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet. While this concept intrigues and excites me for the innovation and creative thinking, it stimulates another thought, as well. Stop the madness of content overload first – force it to be managed responsibly.

While I have been sidelined from blogging for a couple of months, industry pundits have been contributing their comments, reflections and guidance on three major topics. Big Data tops the list, with analytics a close second, rounded out by contextual relevance as an ever present content findability issue. In November at Gilbane Boston the program features a study conducted by Findwise, Enterprise Search and Findability Survey,2012, which you can now download. It underscores a disconnect between what enterprise searchers want and how search is implemented (or not), within their organizations. As I work to assemble content, remarks and readings for an upcoming graduate course on “Organizing and Accessing Information and Knowledge,” I keep reminding myself what knowledge managers need to know about content to make it accessible.

So, how would experts for our three dominant topics solve the problems illustrated in the Findwise survey report?

For starters, organizations must be more brutal with content housekeeping, or more specifically housecleaning. As we debate whether our country is as great at innovation as in generations past, consider big data as a big barrier. Human beings, even brilliant ones, can only cope with so much information in their waking working hours. I posit that we have lost the concept of primary source content, in other words content that is original, new or innovative. It is nearly impossible to hone in on information that has never been articulated in print or electronically disseminated before, excluding all the stuff we have seen, over and over again. Our concept of terrific search is to be able to traverse and aggregate everything “out there” with no regard for what is truly conceptually new. How much of that “big data” is really new and valuable? I am hoping that other speakers at Gilbane Boston 2012 can suggest methods for crunching through the “big” to focus search on the best, most relevant and singular primary source information.

Second, others have commented, and I second the idea, that analytic tools can contribute significantly to cleansing search domains of unwanted and unnecessary detritus. Search tools that auto-categorize and cross-categorize content, whether the domain is large or small should be employed during any launch of a new search engine to organize content for quick visual examination, showing you where metadata is wrong, mis-characterized, or poorly tagged. Think of a situation where templates are commonly used for enterprise reports and the name of the person who created the template becomes the “author” of every report. Spotting this type of problem and taking steps to remediate and cleanse metadata, before deploying the search system is a fundamental practice that will contribute to better search outcomes. With thoughtful management, this type of exercise will also lead to corrective actions on the content governance side by pointing to how metadata must be handled. Analytics functions that leverage search to support cleaning up data stores are among the most practical tools now packaged with newer search products.

Finally, is the issue of vocabulary management and assigning terminology that is both accurate and relevant for a specific community that needs to find content quickly and without multiple versions, or without content that is just a re-hash of earlier findings published by the originator. Original publication dates, source information and proper author attribution are key elements of metadata that must be in place for any content that is targeted for crawling and indexing. When metadata is complete and accurate, a searcher can expect the best and most relevant content to rise to the top of a results page.

I hope others in a position to do serious research (perhaps a PhD dissertation) will take up my challenge to codify how much of “big data” is really worthy of being found – again, again, and again. In the meantime, use the tools you have in the search and content management technologies to get brutal. Weed the unwanted and unnecessary content so that you can get down to the essence of what is primary, what is good, and what is needed.

What technologies is marketing spending on?

Spencer Ante reports in today’s Wall Street Journal that As Economy Cools, IBM Furthers Focus on Marketers. The title and the short article are focused on IBM’s well-known emphasis on marketers, but the article is of more general interest in driving home the extent of one trend in corporate technology spending – the growth of marketing spending on technology – and provoking a number of questions about what it means. At only 600 or so words the article may be useful for some of you to forward to others in your organization that would benefit by thinking more about the effects of this trend.

The article quotes some recent Gartner research that marketing budgets are roughly 3 times IT budgets as a percentage of revenue, and grew between 2011 and 2012 while IT budgets shrank. Current marketing and IT budgets are both expected to increase, but with marketing budgets increasing at twice the rate of IT budgets – 9.0% vs 4.7%. Gartner has also predicted CMOs will have more control over technology spending than CIOs by 2017. Also, “In total, Gartner says companies spent up to $25 billion worldwide on marketing software last year, up from about $20 billion the previous year. Overall corporate software expenditures totaled $115 billion…”. These are impressive numbers, and our own experience based on discussions with our conference attendees, consulting clients, and other analysts and investors, suggests a broad consensus with the trend. Certainly IBM is big believer.

But the next level of detail is even more important for technology vendors and all CMOs who want to benchmark their competitors spending and strategies – for example, what are CMOs spending money on? what should they be spending on” and how do they organize their infrastructure to learn about, purchase, and manage new marketing technologies, and work with IT?

A vocal segment of the technology press suggest that the future of marketing is all about “social”. A favorite prediction of analysts is that the “Web is dead” and the future is all about mobile. Savvy marketers are beyond such oversimplifications. As important as social and mobile are, I think it is safe to say they are still a small percentage of the $25 billion Gartner number. I would love to be enlightened by anyone who has more details on what the percentage is, and what technology categories others think will benefit most from the increase in marketing spending.

Why is this?

Part of the reason are expensive legacy systems and infrastructures. But a bigger reason is that everyone (not just marketing) is learning. Most of the new technologies have some learning curve, but are not rocket science. The really steep curve is learning how to integrate and utilize new technologies, and especially data they provide, effectively – and that is something we all: technologists, marketers, analysts, will be learning about for awhile.

Learn more at Gilbane Boston.

W3C Launches Linked Data Platform Working Group

W3C launched the new Linked Data Platform (LDP) Working Group to promote the use of linked data on the Web. Per its charter, the group will explain how to use a core set of services and technologies to build powerful applications capable of integrating public data, secured enterprise data, and personal data. The platform will be based on proven Web technologies including HTTP for transport, and RDF and other Semantic Web standards for data integration and reuse. The group will produce supporting materials, such as a description of uses cases, a list of requirements, and a test suite and/or validation tools to help ensure interoperability and correct implementation.

A rarity these days – an announcement that used ‘data’ instead of ‘big data’! And the co-chairs are even from IBM and EMC.

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