Raju Chellam, Vice President of New Technologies, Fusionex

Big Community: Has the Big Data buzz died down?

Raju: Yes, the buzz has died down, not because big data is not relevant any more, but because big data is now mainstream, like cloud computing. In fact, in the so-called “developed world” big data has been taken for granted since 2015. In August 2015, research house Gartner even dropped big data from its annual “hype cycle”.

Gartner’s “hype cycles” are pieces of research that explore hype of technologies and related things in and across markets. Big data is not a market, but a set of conditions and complexities that organizations have to deal with/exploit. “But there was a whole lot of hype related to some old and new tools, technologies and practices related to big data that we ended up publishing a hype cycle,” Gartner says.  “But if you didn’t already know, most of the contents of the big data hype cycle already existed, or now exists, on other more context specific hype cycles. It is far from over – big data is very much alive and well. It no longer warrants “hype” or a life outside of the formal desires of a business.”

Big Community: What criteria’s do companies need to focus on in order to make the leap towards digital transformation?

Raju: Companies need to embrace the ABC of D or digital transformation.

A is for Analytics which many companies in Asia just about starting to do seriously. Analytics may not just be about big data; it could start with collecting, cleaning and analysing the huge amount of archived or transactional data from CRM, SCM, etc. Companies can partner with big data players like Fusionex to enhance the value of their data.

B is for Business or getting value to the business. Digital transformation is about using digital platforms to enable the business to gain exponentially in operational effectiveness, or higher margins or lowered cost or greater value for money. Unless the business directly benefits from the technology, IT will never be part of the boardroom.

C is for Cloud computing. The cloud has levelled the playing field for SMEs, who can now get the same benefits of scale and volume that large businesses did with their own data centres. The cloud is where the apps reside, the customers come from and the supply loop is closed. Asian companies have yet to leverage the cloud effectively.

D is for Digital Transformation. That should start at the very top. A recent Russell Reynolds survey reported that only 4% of global 500 companies truly have a board that’s digitally ready, even fewer in the Asia-Pacific. “To make a digital transformation happen, you need complete alignment – from the board through the executive team through the whole organization,” a McKinsey report notes. “Without that ‘air cover’ from the board and from shareholders who understand the change that you’re taking the organization through, it is very, very hard to do it successfully.”

Big Community: Are there specific technologies that can enhance the user experience? Can you share an example?

Raju: User experience is dependent on four factors, which I call REDS.

R is for Relevance. If you’re looking for food, you need ads or discounts or offers about food, not clothes.

E is for Environment. The user experience is likely to change as the environment or mood changes.

D is for Device. If you’re surfing on a smart phone, the content should be mobile-friendly and delivered fast.

S is for Speed. The digital world has reduced access times. Nobody has tolerance for latency of information.

For the near future, the user experience will be enhanced by three forms of alternative reality that are going mainstream:

Augmented: This adds digital content to actual reality. The best example is PokemonGo. This mobile game, which caused a global sensation a year ago, superimposes an animated character on a real world scene.

Virtual: VR or virtual reality is now well-accepted for training and gaming. You put on a VR headset, plug in the audio and are transported to a totally digital 3D world which seems so real that you experience associated emotions.

Mixed: This mixes actual world with the digital. But unlike augmented reality, in mixed reality, they interact with each other. Akin to the 1996 movie, Space Jam, in which a real Michael Jordan interacts with Bugs Bunny.

Big Community: How can companies leverage the skills and platforms available today to make their transformation seamless and worthwhile?

Raju: Companies can do this in three ways. One, DIY where companies hire talent and do everything themselves. This requires deep pockets and good commitment. Two, outsourced model, where companies outsource the brute-force IT and analytics work to companies who have proven expertise in big data analytics, to do it for them, either in the user’s data centre, or on the cloud. Three, a hybrid model, where companies do some part of the analytics and outsource the rest. All three models have their pros and cons. But the goal is the same: leverage the skills and platforms (either in-house or outsourced) to make their digital transformation journey seamless, worthwhile, measureable and successful.

Big Community: Will too much reliance on data and analytics have an adverse effect on industries who have adopted the tech?

Raju: Not likely. First of all, there’s nothing called too much data. The complaint is always that there’s not enough data to get to a meaningful analysis. Secondly, big data analytics is only a tool to enhance accuracy and help management to take well-considered decisions. Decisions which were earlier made intuitively or based on previous research can now be made using real data from within the company or merging it with external data. And finally, there is no evidence of companies have had an adverse outcome by using big data analytics. If this were the case, big data’s growth wouldn’t be so phenomenal. IDC says global revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from US$130 billion in 2016 to more than US$203 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7%.