In a country where Big Data is so incipient and case studies are few and far between, how can a Brazilian company buy Big Data services without wasting time and money - or worse still, buying services that are simply not relevant?
One of the main trends for Big Data in Brazil this year is that organizations will be rushing into "doing Big Data" due to pressure from above to make sense out of the information they generate. But there are a few potential pitfalls.
The first challenge is to avoid spending too much. This can happen due to the scarcity of trustworthy vendors and also the lack of skilled professionals that can receive the knowledge of the vendor, once the Big Data solution has been implemented. But the main hurdle to overcome is the lack of experience in the procurement of these systems.
"We bought a whole suite of Big Data products that does not help us at all. The company we were dealing with promised something that would allow us to create insight easily but now we can't use any of it," says the operations manager at a mid-sized Brazilian food distribution company, who asked to remain anonymous.
"To make matters worse, we wanted to remain independent from IT and did not include them in the process - simply because we thought that the insight generation could be done independently, without the need to request any work from the technology side. Now we are working with IT to see if we can use any of those modules at all," the manager adds.
The usual mistakes of Brazilian Big Data providers
The main issue with most Big Data suppliers in Brazil is their technology-heavy approach, according to Alexandro Strack, chief information officer at logistics firm Gefco.
"Most pitches I have seen are littered with buzzwords. They will mention cloud storage, Hadoop, non-structured data - and all that line of business managers want to hear is how the supplier is going to create a structure that will help them understand past data and use predictive analytics to support decision-making," Strack says.
According to the executive, the other recurring mistake from suppliers is focusing too much on structured information - how to store that data and get insight from it - as well as social media.
"The majority of Big Data suppliers always goes on and on about social media - as if that was the only source of data the organization should be focusing on. How to 'listen' to Twitter, Facebook and the like," he says.
"They seem to forget that for a pure B2B company like ours, there might be a very small presence in social networks - or nothing at all. So the conversation needs to have a completely different focus."
Tips to get the buy appropriate Big Data tools in Brazil
According to Strack, the first step is to define what the organization's desired outcomes in relation to making sense of data - that is, deciding whether the objective is to analyze past information, structured and unstructured, focus on predictive capabilities, or both.
"Next, you should identify whether the supplier has the expertise to help you achieve those outcomes instead of selling a lot of systems that might not be the best solution to the type of data you want to work with," the executive says.
"Typically, you are able to detect whether the vendor is just trying to sell software and not a real 'solution' in the first meeting," he adds.
Another tip is to summon the help of colleagues that have related skill sets. "Having good marketing professionals present at the time of the pitch is a good idea. Because of their skills related to market intelligence, they have a very similar expertise to the sort of augmentation you normally look for when buying Big Data tools."
Given the scarcity of skilled professionals and the reliance of organizations on suppliers to get a better understanding of Big Data, Strack suggests that there is an opportunity for marketing professionals to exploit that niche.
"Marketing professionals are also scarce to some degree, but not more than the Big Data expertise that everybody is now after. Good professionals in that field tend to narrow their focus too much in terms of market intelligence, but I do think that marketeers have a real opportunity to explore while Chief Data Officers are still few and far between in Brazil," says Strack.
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