big data servicesIf there is one consistent theme of the big data bubble, it is that most organisations do not have the skills required to capitalise on the opportunity.

This goes for both technical and applied skills. Hadoop is the standout technology platform for the big data era, but as Information Age reported in May, it is a seller’s market for Hadoop skills, and trained specialists can practically name their price at this point.

Similarly, businesses are often told that to find the precious insights that lurk within their data, they must hire a new breed of employee: the data scientist, a chimerical combination of database administrator, programmer, statistician and business analyst.

It is natural, therefore, that businesses might seek to look outside their organisation for consultants, outsourcers and advisers to help them navigate big data.

Indeed, a recent study by US research company Markets&Markets suggested that the services component of the $15 billion big data market is currently larger than the software segment (although whether anyone can accurately size such an ill-defined sector is open to question).

Companies are offering managed IT services such as cyber security, network security services, cloud data backup, and data analysis for increasing efficiency of solutions. This is not an opportunity that the IT services giants are going to let slip. IBM, Accenture and their ilk have all built big data services practices and are ready to help businesses navigate the technology.

However, according to Dr Paul Miller, an independent analyst and consultant specialising in cloud computing and data analytics, those companies have an infrastructure-centric world-view that may not help businesses find the real value in data.

“So many companies seem to be saying ‘you have big data, put it into our magical system and profit will magically emerge from the other side without having to work very hard,’” he says. “And that’s patently nonsense. Instead, Miller believes that companies wishing to get their foot in the big data door should start by looking at small, well-defined business problems, and letting technology decisions unfold from there.

“For companies wanting to explore the latent potential of their data, they should be starting small, and asking small, defined questions,” he says.

“This goes against what the big tech companies are saying because they want you to buy bigger and bigger systems to handle as much data as possible, then sell you the services on top of that.

By Chloe Green Read more