Big Data Analytics - So what's your secret sauce? - Asystec

A partner colleague of mine was recently presenting his data & analytic platform with his delivery approach to an executive group at a meeting with a sales prospect. A recurring point made by one of the senior customer execs was they had similar pitches from other vendors and what he wanted to know was ‘What is your secret sauce?’. 

This got me thinking about sauces funnily enough, and I thought I would give an analogy to highlight some important differentiation points between embarking on a data analytic project and most other technology projects. My daughter’s favourite dish is my spicy meat balls. Let me set the scene and the characters. My daughter is the business user and I am the analytic technology / solution provider. The final meal is the analytic solution. To get to the final meal you need just the right combination of ingredients, recipe, cooking utensils, my skill and an appreciation for what my daughter likes. Here is my view on the important parts of this meal in order of importance.

The Quality Ingredients AKA your data

The quality ingredients are probably the most important part of the whole meal and what gives life to your sauce. Like any home, there will be some key staples (data) that come in to your house every week, meat and breadcrumbs (customer order data), salad & peppers (raw material data). There may be some other ingredients in the house already that you also like to use like condiments and spices (product design specs, inventory location detail). You may need to bring in some new ingredients that you may not have used before and that is OK too.  

The Sauce AKA the key business insight

What my daughter most associates with my meat balls is the sauce. How I know I have finally got the right mix of ingredients and recipe is that my daughter has been involved every step of the way in helping me perfect it. She has experimented with me to arrive at the right taste. Now, let’s just say some attempts have not turned out as we had originally hoped, but she stuck with it and now she loves the meal. We are now both happy with the meal because it has been a journey we have done together – we remember the mixtures that were not great, and celebrate the final meal which is just perfect. You could say we have failed fast and often. This is just like the best business users / sponsors I have worked with.

The Recipe AKA the delivery methodology

I see this as combining strong best practices with my skill as a cook. Each meal does not take long to prepare and I have got better at seeing the ingredients that best combine to achieve the required taste. It’s an iterative process best done in an agile manner I feel. In my next post, I will discuss cooks and methodologies some more!

The Cooking Utensils AKA my analytic tool set

Although what I use to store my ingredients or what I use to cook my meal is important to me, it is never first on my mind when positioning my meal with someone. You have to have a taste. I have certain tools that I use that work for me. There is a continuing convergence, abstraction and use of commodity components within the analytics space. An important point to keep in mind when choosing the tools to use from an analytic tool set perspective is the idea of time to value versus effort to value and their relative costs from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective. The provision of meals to the 100’s and 1000’s of customers in the Big Data era has created the need for new types of utensils, scale out, distributed compute and storage architectures. Even the provision of meals in a mobile setting is now popular. In the end though, they all come back to helping you get the individual sauce (Insight) right.   

I hope folks find this helpful to gain perspective as you look at formulating your analytic strategy going forward and look to possibly partner with providers to accelerate your initiatives. There are probably many conversations happening in this space at executive dinners. The analogy may be of use. Look to the solution providers that have a holistic view of what you need to do to get you where you want to go. I am of course happy to have any perspective customers of Asystec over for a meal at my place. I do a mean omelette also I am told :-) 

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31.07.14             Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist, Asystec. Picture: Alan Place.
Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist

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