Sailing towards Big Data
By Kiana Almira, Big Data Infrastructure Lead, Royal Carribean International
Big Data is described as the combination of 3 Vs: volume, velocity and variety. Long-established companies, have both volume (historical data on customers) as well as variety (from different interactions with customers).
Together, volume and variety are big advantages. The key, however, is velocity - how quickly can data be brought to bear to make a meaningful impact and lead to better decisions.
There are four main challenges to improving on velocity: (1) the integration of decentralized, legacy systems with new technologies, (2) the security of data, (3) the cost of big data initiatives and (4) the support of leadership and business units to support these initiatives.
Old vs New
Consumers expect to have all the comforts and luxuries they have become accustomed to with any company they interact with. The norm is to take out your phone and open an application to make purchases, store tickets, make recommendations and so much more. Cruising companies have an additional layer of challenges, maintaining up-to-date information with floating hotels that sail all over the world to leverage data to obtain a complete view of our customers and better serve them in as close to real-time as possible.
Bringing change in well-established companies means dealing with complicated, monolithic, legacy systems. Clearly, these legacy systems are extremely valuable, and vital to mission-critical operations, but you will discover that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any particular technology stack, regardless if you’re using Hadoop, cloud-based technologies, etc.
Bringing change in well-established companies means dealing with complicated, monolithic, legacy systems
Tackling these challenges is specific to the business goal, such as improving yield management, customer-type identification, customer satisfaction or net promoter score, or some other niche, to obtain or maintain a competitive edge.
Data security should be a part of the DNA of Big Data right from conception. International corporations that operate in multiple geographical locations have the added complexity of dealing with different varieties of laws and regulations, such as GDPR. Companies that deal with medical information must comply with HIPAA standards. Regulated industries, like credit reporting agencies, have more stringent requirements monitored by lawmakers. Due diligence is needed to ensure your systems meet data security requirements and ensure customers are confident in your ability to keep their information safe.
Collecting, storing, and analyzing this data in the most efficient, cost-effective way is no easy feat. It is easy to get out of hand when collecting data. But collect everything with the idea that it may prove useful later should not be the tactic. Create a scope, keep that goal in mind, and move quickly. The objective is to add value that can be taken back to stakeholders. Communicating and demonstrating your return on investment promotes confidence and opens the door to widen scope in the future.
The toughest hurdle to surpass though would be the people. Leadership is crucial to set expectations on the pace of change. Cruise tourism has seen tremendous growth. An industry that was once perceived as being for “older people” has taken on a new image and more people than ever are choosing to cruise.
Having the support of leadership though, is a continuous process to set expectations on how quickly the organization can change. This means working behind the scenes to enable and encourage the team to move as quickly as possible and demonstrate the effectiveness of a data-focused initiative.
This top-down approach needs to be reinforced by always keeping in mind your internal data consumers. You are essentially causing a paradigm shift for Business Analysts. Change isn’t naturally welcomed because change, by its nature, is unsettling. It impacts jobs, roles and shakes people out of their comfort zone.
Any new initiatives should always keep this in mind, and the uncertainty of change can be offset by training and exposing business groups to these new technologies early on. Show people how these new technologies can improve their ability to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Because the fact of the matter is that if they don’t find the benefit, then you are not going to be successful.
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