Oakland Group

5 lessons I’ve learnt from Big Data LDN

I attended my latest ‘data’ conference last week, getting a pass from the team to go to ‘Big Data London’.

Given this was my first time at Big Data LDN (not London!) I didn’t really know what to expect, so the things I walked away with are perhaps not news to some, but they are a reflection of what I heard from speakers, observed at stands and took from chats with several folk.

Lesson 1 – There are so many vendors in this data space, for anyone coming into it can be mind boggling. How can someone who is responsible for data in their business (let alone a business manager who does not have the time to be a dedicated expert) decipher all of this? It’s a mine field! The answer to potential confusion is get back to basics and focus on making steady progress and capturing the quick wins.  It was a repeated message I heard several times so I think it has a ring to truth.

Lesson 2 – In spite of all the shiny tech….it’s NOT all about the shiny tech. A session that seemed to resonate with a large following was the CDO Playbook. This presentation talked about the real-world considerations that are required if businesses are to exploit their data.  As always, making sustained change comes back to a complex mix of people, culture, processes and (lastly) tools.  People who are equally comfortable in the Boardroom and in the Tech Project Team are going to become increasingly valuable.

Lesson 3 – This is a community that is worth being part of! Everybody from Analysts to Data Scientists, CDOs to Operations Directors, entrepreneurs to students. There was such a buzz and sense of being part of the future. Definitely a world of people that seem to be in it together and can find a combination of skills and technology to solve real world problems.

Lesson 4 – In spite of the above excitement, I did come away thinking that the cool dashboards, whizzy graphs, terabytes of data are only worth so much to the people on the ground making the key decisions in a business. They have to put a lot of trust in all that data, and if there’s even a small part of it that’s not accurate, incorrectly matched or error strewn, then that new dashboard isn’t going to help you make the right decisions! There’s a lot of people out there still using pretty raw data sources!

Lesson 5 – It does not all have to be BIG.  In my day job I still find the majority of business ‘run on excel’.  I suspect that much could be achieved with smaller, tactical improvements, that are focused on the most critical data. There were a number of firms doing things that would be much more accessible to the mainstream business community.

Attendance at events such as this should be mandatory for all business managers – definitely not just the preserve of the ‘data geeks’ (as great as they are) or the IT zealots! Sign up for one now. In fact, you can sign up for Big Data LDN 2018.

Many thanks to Bill Hammond, Matt Stubbs and team for organising and promoting the event.