A major challenge Brazilian business managers face when starting or evolving their Big Data capability is the expense associated to such projects - particularly when the organization lacks the necessary skills to create a solid strategy.
The tendency to create solutions that only cater for an immediate need is first bad habit that needs to be eliminated. This was the case at Arteb, a mid-sized Brazilian automotive firm, where multiple data analytics systems proliferated over the years.
"It started with the finance department needing a business intelligence tool. That was followed by the manufacturing division, then logistics and other various areas - we ended up with a patchwork of systems that were totally disparate," says Douglas Januario, Arteb's chief information officer.
"The cost also started to add up - bits of expense here and there to create these temporary solutions. Then, the top management decided that we needed a dashboard, a single version of the truth that consolidated all those data sources," Januario adds.
Budgeting at Arteb has a centralized model, with IT retaining the control over new technology investments. However, the adoption of a Big Data set of tools was not a decision that was solely taken by Januario and his team.
A necessary partnership
Arteb began a Big Data project in partnership with HP and TOTVS - a Brazilian enterprise giant akin to SAP - a couple of years ago and the rollout of the new Big Data toolset finished at the end of 2013. The upgrade of the company's infrastructure to support the platform was preceded by a thorough analysis of what the various business units needed and a joint effort to create a single data analytics platform.
"A lot of companies fall in the same trap we were in and have multiple systems and the IT department allows that to happen - often because of pressure from business peers to create a fast solution to their issues. We decided to break away from that approach," says Januario.
"A certain line of business manager might have a need that is very similar to someone else's need in a separate department. You then need to be pragmatic and find out whether one solution can work for more than one department - that was the case here," he points out.
According to Januario, many business managers are reluctant to work with IT in data analytics projects due to the transparency such tools bring into the organization. "You start shining a light on the operational excellence of a department, but also any eventual failures and weak points. And that can be hard to deal with," the executive says.
"Some line of business managers prefer to procure Big Data systems on their own, or continue using Excel - often because all the effort that goes into reworking data into formula-laden spreadsheets looks better than getting a simple report generated by a Big Data platform."
- Douglas Januario, CIO, Arteb
On the other hand, a good partnership with the technology department can not only help business managers get technically appropriate Big Data tools, but also to smoothes the path to get the funding necessary to implement them:
"There are line of business managers that do not trust IT for a number of reasons and prefer to procure Big Data systems on their own, or continue using Excel - often just because all the effort that goes into reworking data into formula-laden spreadsheets looks better than getting a simple report generated by a Big Data platform," says Januario.
"What often happens is that business line managers try and buy standalone systems themselves and get lost in tech-speak they don't always understand. This could lead to getting an expensive product that could well be similar to what other areas have got," he adds.
"The times IT was seen as a necessary evil are gone. In order to get Big Data tools that will get the result you need, you must involve technology - that conversation is inevitable and the partnership is necessary."