Big Data & Analytics Heroes

Mark van Rijmenam

Founder of Datafloq
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"Data will be the lifeblood of every society and organization in the coming years, no matter the industry you are in."

Mark van Rijmenam, this week's IBM Big Data & Analytics Hero, is also founder of Datafloq: the one stop shop for big data, creating the big data ecosystem by connecting all stakeholders within the global big data market. He is an entrepreneur, a well sought after international public speaker and a big data strategist as well as author of the best-selling book "Think Bigger: Developing a Successful Big Data Strategy for Your Business." Mark firmly believes that “developing a big data strategy requires the organization to have a good understanding of what big data is, what it entails and what the different possibilities are.” 

What are the biggest challenges when getting started with big data and analytics?

Big data requires a different way of working, and most organizations have not yet adapted. It requires a data-driven culture, where managers and employees trust the data, as well as the insights derived from it. In most organizations this means a change in company culture and changing your company culture is always difficult.

The technological challenges are, of course, also difficult, especially if you do not have the right skill sets in house (for example, a Hadoop cluster). Getting the right talent in house is also difficult, as true big data scientists and analysts are scarce and expensive. However, there are more and more big data startups that offer a big data as a service (DBaaS) solution, to help companies move into the big data era without the need to hire expensive talent. 

How are big data and analytics changing business strategy?

Big data and snalytics are dramatically changing business strategy. Having real-time insights in how your organization performs requires a different way of working than receiving insights on, for example, a weekly basis.

Big data goes a lot further than just using BI tools to create KPI dashboards. As mentioned, it needs a different corporate culture that is data-driven and information-centric. Also, big data is all about combining and analyzing different data sets to create new, real-time insights that can be used for decision making. I like to call that "mixed data," and an out-of-the-box approach is vital to provide new data-driven solutions within your organization. Developing a big data strategy requires the organization to have a good understanding of what big data is, what it entails and what the different possibilities are. Developing a big data strategy is only one aspect—implementing the strategy is a different ball game that drastically changes your business. There are a lot of examples where companies have successfully implemented a big data strategy, resulting in a completely changed organization that makes decisions based on hard evidence instead of gut feeling.

When it comes to big data and ­analytics really delivering on ROI, what is the market still missing?

There are two things missing in the market:

  • More BDaaS providers that offer a solutions enabling smaller organizations to become data-driven and work with multiple data sets, without the need for expensive solutions or talent
  • Organizations should have a better understanding of what big data is and what it can do for their organization. The market needs to be educated. Apart from the Fortune 500 companies, smaller and medium sized enterprises are reluctant to move ahead with big data, because they don’t know what it is, what it can do for them and where to start. Datafloq works to educate the market and help organizations find their way in the big data marketplace, which is still cluttered and my book, "Think Bigger," helps organizations with obtaining a shared understanding of big data.

Should tomorrow's generation acquire analytic skills, no matter the degree? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. In the next decade big data will become the lifeblood of every society and organization in the coming years, no matter the industry. Everyone should have a least a basic understanding how to work with data and how to get insights from it. Of course, for a lot of degrees, a basic understanding is sufficient, but I am a big advocate of having primary and secondary students learn how to write code as that will become as important as learning a normal language or basic mathematics.

To learn more, download "The next revolution in decision management: Capturing big data" and explore the other IBM Big Data & Analytics Heroes.