Those who think of big data as nothing more than a buzzword are failing to acknowledge the very real impact it is having on businesses and governments around the world.
A dedicated big data institute should make a tangible difference to the obstacles that threaten to hold us back, namely availability of skills and effective communication of what big data really offers.
Firstly, businesses are still struggling to find people with the necessary skills to extract the value from big data. Even graduates from relevant statistics and computer science degrees often end up being taught technologies and approaches that are already out of date in today’s fast changing landscape. An institute specifically focused on big data analytics skills should ensure that big-data-critical technologies such as ‘map reduce’ and non-relational databases are getting the attention they need.
Secondly, a dedicated institute will give big data the ‘innovation space’ it needs. Within an organization, big data is often siloed, and the wider potential of small, but valuable projects sitting in individual departments is often overlooked. Other big data projects fail because they start as science projects that don’t always connect with the very real business problems that could be solved. What is needed is a healthy balance between ‘technology push’ and ‘demand pull’ innovation, a cross-disciplinary approach to enable new ways of thinking about existing technology challenges and then marrying those solutions to known and unknown business challenges and opportunities. Clear communication of big data success stories is the fastest way to accelerate adoption.
For big data to succeed in the UK, the following pieces have to be in place: strategy, people, process and technology. If the Turing institute is to deliver value, it must help companies develop a big data strategy, find a way to embed big data technologies into existing business processes and focus on the change management project that will be needed to move people towards a new way of doing things.
Splunk’s UK office is practically a shrine to Alan Turing who was born and raised 500 yards from our Paddington HQ. Finding hidden patterns in the data output from the Enigma machines, with very limited resources, was Turing’s genius. Nowadays data is bigger, but the support that’s available to mine that data for insights could make the task much easier if organizations only knew ‘how’.
The graffiti in Splunk’s reception, next to Turing’s spray-painted portrait, poses Turing’s question ‘Can Machines Think? Traditional ‘machines’ cannot think fast enough to seize the opportunity and mitigate the threats contained in big data. We believe we can help make this new institute a huge success by giving the winning university team the ‘head start’ that Turing never had in the quest to make sense of vast volumes of data.
James Murray, VP and general manager EMEA of Splunk, which is offering free licences to all UK universities interested in bidding for the funding to set up the Alan Turing institute.
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