Note: We are currently posting the top 5 posts of 2012, this week through Jan. 1. This post is #2 on the list and was originally published Apr. 10, 2012.
So far in this series, we looked at how to determine the compelling drivers for your first big data project, the importance of choosing the right people for your team, and in the last post we examined the computing environment. This final installment talks about planning for success.
Boil a Bathtub
There’s an old saying, “You should boil a bathtub before you try to boil an ocean.” Humor aside, this is actually a very important point, and one that people sometimes lose sight of. Because big data technologies offer profoundly new ways of doing things, we oftentimes see customers that are starry-eyed on very big ideas.
Big, transformative ideas are important to your business, and they should play a key role in your strategic plan for what you want to accomplish over the next 5 to 10 years. But those ambitious ideas are not the right place to start. Your initial objective should be manageable and should have a clear, direct line-of-sight ROI. I covered this point in part 1 of this series.
Some of this can be accomplished just by practicing good project management discipline, but it’s important to note that any journey starts with the initial steps of being specific about the objectives upfront.
Good project management aside, establishing an initial set of attainable objectives is especially important with big data technologies because of the organizational dynamics we see in people who have inflated expectations. The technology can open many doors and address previously unsolvable challenges, but it cannot overcome hyper-inflated expectations.
Before you start, get a clear, agreed-to objective that is fairly modest so the team can gain experience while having a strong likelihood of success.
Plan for Success
This next situation is what we would call a “high-quality problem,” but it is still potentially a problem. It is common that once the project is rolling and you have initial results, the project sponsors are going to ask you to put it into production faster than you might expect – or want. To ensure that this does not catch you by surprise, be prepared with a plan that describes how you would scale the project in a way that does not blow your ROI case.
The line of business constituents you are supporting will become very impatient. They will want to use – and expand – the project as quickly as possible so they can take advantage of the insight that these projects often deliver. Plan for it. This is one of the reasons why you want to pull/touch/push from your other key systems during the pilot.
Keep your original set of agreed-to objectives close at hand and remind people of them as needed. Remember, you have to be able to boil a bathtub before you can boil an ocean.
Once again, here are links to the other posts in this series:
What do you think? Are you ready to choose your first project? If not, what else would you like to know? Leave me a comment and I’ll try to help.
To effectively compete in today’s changing world, it is essential that companies leverage innovative technology to differentiate from competitors. Learn how you can do that and more in the Smarter Computing Analyst Paper from Hurwitz and Associates.