Creating New Business Value Around the Business Data Lake

If your organization is like most, you have multiple business groups seeking to leverage pools of segmented Big Data in various ways to improve their operations, gain insight into customers, target marketing efforts, hone product features and more.  Maybe you are even one of the few who have gained some significant value from these siloed business analytics using increasingly popular data science techniques.

However, most organizations, including EMC, still have a way to go to become an analytical enterprise, which bases both tactical and strategic decisions on data and analytics.  This does not mean that the decision-making is out of the hands of the leadership of the company and the years of experience they bring, but it does mean that every decision has been critiqued based on what your analysis is telling you.

If you are one of the lucky few who have completed this journey — or maybe your company was built on an analytics foundation from the beginning — congratulations!  However, for the rest of us, this is a journey that we must undertake to stay relevant in today’s rapidly evolving digital business landscape.

Liberating the Data

EMC began our journey to becoming an analytical enterprise several years ago by shoring up our foundation.  This foundational phase included consolidating multiple islands of data and putting in place business intelligence (BI) services and data governance for critical subject areas. We established standards for tools and platforms that allowed us to scale and leverage our technical talent more effectively. This is also when we created a formal Main Data Management (MDM) group starting with our Customer Master Data Hub.


We then moved on to what we refer to as the Analytics Enablement, or “Liberate” phase.  In this phase we focused on building our advanced analytics capabilities, empowering the analytics practitioners and “liberating” the data from the corporate dungeons.  During this period we built out our Business Analytics as a Service platform, based on Pivotal’s Greenplum MPP database appliance, to empower the analysts in the business.

This platform provides a powerful, shared analytics platform preloaded with the enterprise data so the analysts can easily look for new insights and collaborate across organizations –something that was very difficult in the old model of siloed shadow BI solutions.  During this phase, we also built out a Data Science team that could apply advanced analytical techniques to the gold mine of data now available.

We have many groups that are using this platform to deliver tremendous value to EMC and we’re progressing solidly along the analytic enterprise maturity curve.  However, by any measure, we still cannot claim to be an analytics enterprise.  That requires a more systemic, enterprise-wide adoption of analytics into our business processes.

In  2014, we started the Business Data Lake program to help us close the gap between our current state and our goal of being an analytical enterprise. In addition to creating a centralized repository of enterprise information leveraging EMC Federation technology, the program is also putting in place required business processes and governance to ensure success.

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Four Pillars of Success

It became apparent to us a while back that we will not be successful on our journey if we only address the technical enablement.  We refer to there being four pillars of success.  These pillars are Value, Operating Model, Governance and of course Technology.

Brown-Dietrich-DataLakes-EMCW-2015-finalValue refers to the fact that you need to understand where the value lies and how you can go after it with analytics. You also need to maximize the value returned for your investment and understand how the value of the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts by having each initiative build upon those that went before it.

You must also have an operating model that encourages experimentation, collaboration, rapid innovation and allows for failure.  If the application of analytics to business operations was a well-defined and known path, we would all be doing it.

Now to talk about governance.  This word is often met with jeers and comments like, “I knew it was too good to be true.”  But in this case, we are not talking about governance that tells you what you are and are not allowed to do.  This is governance that is intended to remove barriers by putting in place the support and decision-making bodies that can ensure good ideas have a fighting chance.  For instance, ensuring that data quality issues are addressed or funding requirements are met.

That leaves technology.  For this we are building the next generation of our Business Data Lake based on EMC Federation technologies.

Continuing to evolve and making strides in each of these areas is crucial to our ongoing journey to become an analytic enterprise.

More about Data Lake technology coming soon.  If you’re attending EMC World in Las Vegas, please attend our presentation – EMC IT: How We’re Creating New Business Value from Big Data and Business Data Lakes — Tuesday, May 5th at 12:00 PM, and Thursday, 5/7 at 11:30 AM (times are local).

Not attending EMC World? You can interact with Sean and Oshry Ben-Harush, EMC IT data scientist, via Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook during an upcoming CrowdChat (details here) on Tuesday, May 5th at 4:30 ET/1:30 PT p.m. using #AskEMCITbigdata.

About the Author: Sean Brown