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The word “disruptive” is becoming almost as overused as the term “Big Data”; and yet, there really is no aspect of modern technology that threatens and promises so much change as the application of sophisticated algorithms (analytics) to vast quantities of information (Big Data). Every enterprise is engaged at some level in figuring out how to profitably adapt to the ways in which Big Data and analytic (BDA) applications can transform their value chain. Meanwhile, literally hundreds of vendors are already in the business of developing and marketing BDA products and services; and more are coming to market all the time.
Buyers and sellers of BDA solutions appear to be at the beginning of a familiar technology adoption story: Some are already racing to apply BDA so that they can outpace their competitors, while others are pursuing a more measured course, or waiting on the sidelines to see what happens around them. Innovation and adoption will continue as, eventually, everyone deploys and adapts. Fortunes will be made and lost, new stars will rise and lesser lights will fade, until BDA loses its novelty status and becomes just another integral part of the broadly established technological baseline. This trajectory has been traced for decades, by ever-more-powerful combinations of computers, networks and software. Isn’t Big Data and analytics simply the latest manifestation of this longrunning paradigm? A few, presumably well-informed individuals think not. In fact, they worry that too many networked computers, running too many algorithms on too much data, will trigger a technological singularity that will shift power away from humans to the systems they have created.
Frost & Sullivan (hereafter, Stratecast) believes that BDA’s commercial application will be accompanied by qualitatively different disruptive and transformational impacts, compared to the commercialization of prior technology step changes. No enterprise will survive unchanged, but the overall impacts will be less than catastrophic. This week’s SPIE briefly explores the ways in which individuals and organizations generally respond to disruptive technologies; then, explains why organizations will be both more challenged and more rewarded by adopting Big Data and analytic solutions than they have been by its precursors. Finally, the report explains why business-to- business (B2B) companies, such as those that sell information and communication technologies (ICT), may have a more difficult time adopting Big Data and analytic solutions than their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts, exemplified by consumer products companies.
Individuals Adapt Easily and Quickly
Today, the technological developments of the past 30+ years—the personal computer, databases, word processing, spreadsheets, cell phones, email and the World Wide Web—are part and parcel of daily living; and only people “of a certain age” can even recall life without them. Since the turn of the century, consumer-driven technologies—smart phones, tablets, and social media networking— have continued to delight individuals with new ways to get and share information, ideas, opinions and entertainment. Without Google, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, and their ilk, most people would be hard-pressed to accomplish as much or to enjoy the variety of connections and entertainment that they take for granted today.
Individuals can and do readily embrace the latest technological gadgets and services in their private lives. At work, individuals also adapt; although, few get the opportunity to adapt to the very latest computers, networks and software. Instead, most adapt by learning how to satisfy long-standing informational and process requirements that are imposed by a variety of internal systems and practices. They also adapt by learning how to work around many of those requirements to get their jobs done. Individuals don’t purposely abandon or subvert existing systems and procedures, mainly because they have a vested interest in system outputs, such as standard performance and exception reports.
These reports are often crucial determinants at higher levels of the organization, in decisions about everything from supplier selections to departmental budgets and compensation packages. Individuals must keep up with the requirements of established systems and practices, but they often need to generate casual relationships and undocumented processes of their own to accomplish day-to-day tasks and meet critical objectives. They do this because the corporate systems that once may have mirrored actual work processes no longer do so. The ease with which individuals adapt rarely extends to large groups of individuals. Change is often resisted, at least initially, in part because multiple preferences and opinions need to be sorted out. People like their routines. In fact, in most organizations, the gradual divergence of actual business activity from the systematized business processes and metrics that drive corporate decision-making is well known, and arguably inevitable. As long as no dangerous disparities are reaching the executive suite or negatively affecting the bottom line, business as usual can continue.
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