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Bogged down in Big Data

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The infinite monkey theorem states that if enough monkeys were to type on typewriters for long enough, they would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. To some, that may seem incomprehensible.

IT chiefs across the Middle East may have the same sense of infinity as they battle against the daunting tide that is Big Data.

A recent study by auditor KPMG revealed that 85 percent of CFOs and CIOs did not know how to analyse the data that they had collected.

Meanwhile, 54 percent said that their greatest barrier to success was an inability to identify the data worth collecting.
”Unless businesses tackle the problem of data collection and analysis one step at a time, they run the risk of crashing and burning.” said Alwin Magimay, Head of Digital and Analytics, KPMG UK.

Seems simple enough; don’t get bogged down in too much detail.

Speaking at CNME’s recent CIO 50 awards, Arun Tewary, VP of IT, Emirates Flight Catering, was wary of the catch-22 of more connected devices, “In this day and age, we have technology, but information is missing,” he said. “We run the risk of drowning in the age of information pollution.”

But in difficulty lies opportunity, and one Middle East case proves that, with a resourceful strategy, real value can be derived from Big Data. Dr Jassim Haji, IT Director, Gulf Air, initially sampled Microsoft software but found his organisation restricted by hidden costs. He subsequently trained his staff to sample a variety of methods, and now has an open-source system through which Gulf Air is only partially supported by vendors.

Haji’s case shows two important factors. KPMG’s study found that several organisations had highlighted a variety of data sets that they believed would provide crucial insight, but when it came down to it, social media was their best indicator over customer preference. Haji used this to his advantage. Secondly, he trusted his own team and saved costs on over-complicated, drawn-out processes by keeping things in-house.

Another speaker at our CIO 50 awards, Ali Radhi, Head of IT, MBC, outlined his strategy for ‘commercialising Big Data’. “Big Data comes in three categories: exploratory analytics, predictive analytics and casual interference techniques,” he said. “Companies must choose the right data to analyse, build models that predict and optimise business outcomes, and use this to transform their capabilities. The real challenge in all this lies in algorithm tuning.”

When it comes down to it, that’s more or less what it takes. Back to the monkey analogy; with typewriters, you could be waiting a while for a fully formed re-print of Hamlet to emerge. But give the monkeys the right algorithm, and the rest is history.

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