Recently, during a presentation on a completely differentshutterstock 151300544
topic, I saw this Chinese proverb,

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one
step at a time, but we must keep on stepping”

It struck me for a couple of reasons, but it especially resonated
with regard to discussions I often have with customers. It harkens back to my early days working with customers on Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse solutions. They had tons of reporting needs, their users were asking more and more complex questions, they knew they needed a solution, but they didn’t know
where to start and it seemed like just a huge obstacle to overcome. Sound

There is so much hype in the news these days about “big data”. Every CIO and DWBI manager I meet is talking about it and very often the conversation comes down to, “I don’t really understand what this big data thing is, but I know I need some.”

This is virtually the same conversation we were having with customers five and 10 years ago about data warehouse and BI. They’d heard they needed these things, but weren’t really sure why. The ability to show them why it was an important addition to the way they did business is why we were successful. Another significant reason has been our approach…”think big, but start small.” One of the biggest reasons DWBI projects have failed in the past is because organizations try to tackle too much at once and by the time they get any real value delivered to the business, the business has moved on. We have been coaching our customers to “think big and start small” for years…envision the end-state (or at least a state a year or two out) but start delivering value immediately. The proverb above really says the same thing with the addition of the phrase “keep on stepping”. Don’t stop when “it’s good enough” and lose sight of that big vision you had at the outset.

So what does this have to do with big data? Big data is a big topic. There are so many buzzwords (with new ones every day) that it’s impossible to keep up. I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day and we were throwing around terms and technologies and were confusing each other. If we’re confused, and we’re both engineers engaged in designing and selling solutions, what are our customers thinking?!

If you’re thinking about a big data solution, you’re probably at one of three stages:

  1. You’ve been hearing the hype, you don’t really know what it means, but your business customers are asking for it.
  2. You’ve been exploring options, reading about technologies and are getting overwhelmed with the amount of information and technologies available.
  3. You’re already chosen a technology and are trying to build solutions, but are finding it difficult with a steep learning curve.

My advice to you at any of these stages is…”think big, start small and don’t lose sight of the goal”. Big data projects benefit from this approach as much as any project we’ve ever done. Find a small use case within your organization and use it to kick the tires. There are some easy ways to do this.

– Do you have a traditional data warehouse that is growing rapidly and you want try out a more scalable solution? Or, are you thinking about a data warehouse, but don’t really know where to start? Have you thought about the cloud? Sign up for a Windows Azure trial account and stand up a Fast Track Data Warehouse environment in a few minutes.

– Interested in Hadoop? You can stand up a HDInsight Hadoop cluster on Windows Azure or download the Hortonworks Sandbox and get a Hadoop environment running on a local virtual machine. Both of these options come with demos and tutorials to get you started.

The advantage of these approaches is that you can get started for very little or no cost. It’s a great way to get started in order to plan a path to your first real solution and once you have a vision of what’s possible, you’re in a better position to request funding and have an ROI
discussion. Once you get that first project under your belt, you can continue to follow your roadmap with small steps and continue to drive business value.

Break the long journey into smaller steps and you’ll reach the end refreshed with a great feeling of satisfaction…just remember to keep stepping!

If you have interest in data warehouse and big data solutions, contact BlueGranite for a discovery call.

If you’ll be in Detroit on March 13 or Chicago on March 19, join us for an executive round table to discuss big data trends and strategies.