john-brahim
Statistical Data Analysis

Capgemini bets on Big Data becoming Big Money

It’s hardly a surprise that the jury remains locked in discussions over whether to convict Big Data for being yet another overhyped technology marketing meme pursued by vested interests who are desperate for one more silver-bullet concept. After all, the IT industry has a long charge sheet on this front and prosecutors could ask for dozens of other such crimes to be taken into consideration.

So, Big Data: world-changing phenomenon or cynical recycling exercise? I recently spoke to somebody at the sharp end to get another point of view.

John Brahim runs Capgemini’s Insights & Data Global Practice. In that role he takes a more balanced view than many – after all, who wants to pull the wool over the boss of your biggest clients? And Brahim is refreshingly candid when it comes to discussing the latest tech trends and the real pace of change.

“In technology we’re no strangers to fashion but hype sometimes becomes reality,” he tells me. “Sometimes it’s a case of ‘yes it happened, but it happened 10 years later’.”

Brahim points to a recent survey Capgemini undertook with EMC called Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business. In particular he notes that 65 per cent of the 1,000 C-suite and senior decision makers interviewed felt their organisations were at risk of becoming uncompetitive if they didn’t pursue new data analytics offerings. Also, 27 per cent reported new competitors in their sectors and 53 per cent expected competition from data-rich startups. And over half (54 per cent) say investment in Big Data will outstrip all previous spending on analysing large datasets.

These are surely the horns of a dilemma businesses sit astride: on the one hand they have a habitual suspicion of ‘new’ technologies; on the other, they can’t miss out on the golden egg promised by IT number (and word) crunching – strategic insight that mitigates risks and highlights opportunities.

“These aren’t normal numbers,” Brahim says, adding that he feels that three specific trends make Big Data a real phenomenon rather than imaginary beast. These are: Hadoop, the open source framework that allows giant datasets to be collated from disparate sources; the emergence of data science with its own disciplines and new rigour; and “a collective state of mind” that recognises that all the new data types and the ability to process them can make for a very different world of information.

However, it’s not all gravy and Brahim bemoans a “huge scarcity” of people with the right qualifications to identify trends and make best use of data. “Today, the level reached is mediocre at best,” he says

To that end, Capgemini is adding 2,500 trained data scientists to its 10,000-strong Insights team. Brahim believes the time is now as Big Data arrives at “the middle of the game” and inflexion points abound. His plan is to double-down on this area, as anticipation of the market for these wares and skills double.

It’s understandable that executives are wary of another trend being presented as game changing but the ability to trap more sources of information from sensors and IP-equipped, formerly dumb objects should yield something new, especially as we now have the CPU cycles and associated IT firepower to process data quickly and affordably. The third leg of the stool will be hiring people who can create best practices and develop a fledgling employment category – Capgemini has a good record when it comes to seeing what’s coming around the corner and it has probably backed the right horse again here.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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