We live in a funny world when it comes to IT making life ever more fast and furious: On the one hand, the phenomenon called Big Data is sweeping industries and organizations, striking fear into the hearts of geeks and bean counters. On the other hand, some pundits already declare the term as a misnomer, if not badly overhyped and thus dead on arrival. All data is big, they argue, so stop lecturing us.
Let’s take a deep breath and ask a simple question: What are the next disruptive trends in enterprise computing, and what are the consequences? My answer is equally simple: Data is the most valuable asset, and information technology that makes data work harder for businesses is getting consumerized beyond our wildest dreams. It started with BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” and is now complemented by something even more disruptive: BYOS, short for “Bring Your Own Services.”
I’m not making this up to scare CIOs. Seven out of ten of SMBs report that their employees are already bringing their own applications to work, according to a recent survey by Edge Strategies and LogMeIn. Their findings, based on polling 1,200 small and mid-size companies in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, are hardly surprising. This trend is a direct result of the BYOD revolution and the next logical step in how SMBs will become fully data-driven. It opens the door to let every employee or even every external partner create value, at will and ad hoc.
If you build smart tools to crunch numbers for a living, Big Data is a meal too good to pass up. Being free to choose and use services or apps for business is, in fact, the best digestif to chow down on Big Data and not get the hiccups. Let your creative minds work with the devices and services they like and love, and you stand a better chance to cut big data streams down to size faster, ask better questions and find good answers. That all adds to the bottom line, no matter how small your shop is.
Of course there’s one big catch to this new freedom: losing control. As we know, CIOs and IT executives in general are concerned about remaining in charge of their organization’s IT infrastructure, strategy and security. the above-mentioned survey shows that less than a quarter of IT executives feel they are fully prepared to deal with this BYOS insubordination.
Executives, though, have to understand that both BYOD and BYOS are forces of nature. The only way forward for companies is to realize their potential and embrace the movement. They should support multiple devices on multiple platforms and be creative when it comes to making access to their important data streams secure.
It’s a matter of staying competitive in the market and attractive to new talent while not taking your eyes off compliance and liability issues. Today, 69% of social apps and 52% cloud sync and storage apps used by SMBs were originally used by employees before being deployed organization-wide. That’s why I tell skeptical CIOs and CEOs to look at the advantages of accepting these services and welcoming them into their companies. There are tremendous cost savings in adopting BYOD and BYOS when both are done in a smart and secure fashion.
The second benefit to this Big Data digestif is much bigger. Bringing services and apps of one’s choice will empower employees to discover new and innovative ways to increase the holy grail of any organization: profitability. It nudges the smart people on the team to ask the right questions. What are the hidden profit centers? Where are our offline and online dollars best spent? Who are the nodes in our extended network of partners and suppliers that contribute to our bottom line? Where are the other smart guys you can connect with? Where have we overlooked an opportunity to connect the dots between social media metrics and POS data?
If you lock down your employees and force them to use pre-ordained devices and services, you literally leave money on the table, every second and with every click. Even worse. You’re doing your company a disservice by leaving Big Data untouched, turning it into something of an expert knowledge domain.
It’s anything but.
The vast stream of Big Data starts as rivulets of small. That’s why it might be a good idea to let your team think small when it comes to Big Data: tapping only those pieces they need. Nearly everybody today has the tools and skills to cut Big Data down to size, dissect and digest it, and eventually derive value from. Just let them explore!
BYOS is a trend we won’t be able to stop, just like we couldn’t stop BYOD. The numbers are clearly behind this trend as well. Almost one in two IT decision makers at SMBs believe service liberation will increase flexibility and one in three says BYOS will help them identify and fill gaps in their IT infrastructure.
We might as well get out in front of it and be successful before the rest of the corporate world stops being frightened. Even if you don’t like the label, Big Data is too valuable a resource or asset to be left to some experts. My motto is: Have fun with data big and small, but make sure you do so with a smart digestif that makes it go down so much better.