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Transform big data in real understanding, tomorrow’s challenge

on ‎06-04-2014 10:33 AM

User Experience.jpgAs companies transform themselves for the digital world we are living in, gaining understanding of the data accessible to us, will be the next challenge. In the world of the blind, the one with one eye is king. The same is true in the business world. Many enterprises are so focused on their internal operations, they forget to look around them and understand the game in which they are playing. Making it possible to gather that understanding will make the difference between a leader and a laggard. What should we look at?


The world is quickly turning digital

Let me share with you some numbers and you’ll see how quickly things evolve:

The results: From 2005 to 2020, the digital universe, this means the data available to all of us, will grow 300 fold, to 40.000 Exabytes (40 zetabytes) or 5.200 terabytes per person in the world. In my previous blog entry I talked about some of the challenges to manage that amount of data. Although enterprise IT spending seems to decrease, the total spent in IT (including shadow-IT and service providers) will grow with 40% between 2012 and 2020. We will be consuming IT differently though and cloud computing is part of that transformation.


Now, where things are really getting interesting is that 68% of the created data is created and used by consumers. The real question is whether the data is of any interest to enterprises. In its Digital Universe study, IDC believes that 35% of that data is valuable to be analyzed. Even if it is only 35%, it’s still a big number.


Your customer base is changing
We believe you will need to digitally enable your enterprise to be able to take advantage of this data and exploit it. We also believe you do not really have a choice as your customer base is changing. What has been unique in the latter part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century is a clear delineation in the way generations are behaving. And where up till now, a big portion of the buying power was with baby boomers, things are changing. Generation X and Generation Y are taking over. They have a very different way to interact with enterprises and with each other. They use different channels to take decisions. Being a baby boomer myself, I look at the way my children operate, how they research information on a product or service prior to buying them, how they relate to their friends and communities for advice. In such a world, you do not only want to know what people think about you, but you need to know it, or you will lose out quickly. Particularly with generation Y, which represents nearly 50% of the customer base in parts of the world, loyalty is no longer part of the vocabulary. So, you need to earn the right to maintain a relationship with them. And this implies you need to continuously surprise them, make the relationship with you valuable. This requires you understand what interests them and can provide it.


Sense your environment
I talked about the 50 billion sensors out there. They are of all kind, going from video cameras to structural & traffic sensors and health gadgets. Each of them generates a stream of data. Sure with traffic sensors you can display road congestion and transit times. But you may want to do more. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, aggregators may take that data and turn it into useful information. These may be sources you can use to delight your users.


The state of California monitors snow levels to predict water availability and possible droughts. If your customer is a local farmer, this is extremely valuable information. You may give him hints of what to grow when and where, taking into account the availability of water.


If you purchase vegetables, it may help you predict the cost of specific vegetables and when it might be a good moment to find foreign sources to keep the prices at acceptable levels. And I could go on like this.


Delight your customers
The first thing to know is what your customers are looking for. Increasingly they are expressing themselves through social media, so why not try understand what they are looking for. Great, but the data is not structured, at best it’s semi-structured, most probably unstructured. So we will need tools that “understand” tweets, Facebook entries, blogs, photos, audio and even video. And remember things may be called differently in separate conversations, so understanding the meaning, the context is critical. Fortunately, those tools exist. It’s up to us to let them loose on our customer base.


Then, once we have understood what they are looking for, it’s getting important to deliver the information they want. And here again, it may not all be sensor data either. It will be a combination and include items owned by yourself, sitting within your own storage, and data provided by aggregators or available on the internet or in the cloud. Obviously this data will be in a large variety of formats. We discovered over 400 different ones. So you’ll need tools that can digest all of this, understand it, identify what makes sense for this customer and then deliver it to him using the channel he or she prefers.


But that’s not enough, you want to understand if, what you share with him satisfies his needs. Ultimately that is his objective. So, you’ll go back through the social media channels to understand how he feels about you and your company. In doing so, you attract new customers, engage relationships, convert those to business and finally retain them by surprising them over and over again.


Make it simple for them
Integrating your existing applications and data sources while identifying and analyzing external data sources are the background activities required. But you need to make sure it’s simple to use. And that is where the digital experience comes in. How intuitive is the interaction with your environment. I always ask myself, would my mother understand how to access this environment? Remember, all your customers are not computer literate. For us it’s obvious to press the start button to stop a computer…. But that may not be obvious for everybody. So, when designing the user interaction, make sure you have non computer literate people looking at it prior you freeze things. Transform your development approach in an agile one so you can update things quickly and enhance/correct the environment as feedback is received. Remember that success is defined by your customer, not by your brand. Actually, your brand is what your customers want it to be, not what you expect.


To surprise your customers regularly, you should move to agile development where you can add small sets of functionality on a regular basis. Think about the apps on your smartphone. They keep being updated every other week or so. This should become your role model.



It’s your customers that will make your success. They are changing, so you better adapt. And remember, cloud, social and big data allow us to sense the market, but it’s the user experience that makes us relevant. The opportunities are endless, our imagination is the limit. So don’t hesitate to think out of the box. Try things out, keep the end point in mind.


This blog entry is based on a presentation I gave at an HP Experience Day in Helsinki, Finland early June. If you are interested in the actual slides I used, you can find them here.

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on ‎06-08-2014 02:07 PM

brasi more monitors snow levels to predict water availability and possible droughts. If your customer is a local farmer, this is extremely valuable information. You may give him hints of what to grow when and where, taking into account the availability of water

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