Building the base for big data

The benefits that big data analytics can bring to organisations, in terms of fast and detailed analysis of business data, are being talked up by many in the IT community, but to successfully harness big data, companies will need to develop whole new skill sets and competencies

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Building the base for big data Big Data is still in its infancy in the Middle East, although governments, telcos, the financial sector and airlines are among the early adopters.
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By  Keri Allan Published  November 20, 2013

It’s fair to say that the big data market in the Middle East is continuing to find its feet. Globally the market is still very young, but compared to countries like the US, the region is lagging behind and there continues to be a lot of confusion around what big data actually entails.

“Most companies have heard about it, been told they need to think about it and have been confused with each vendor positioning ‘big data’ from a completely different point of view. Companies think it’s only about storing a lot of data, others think its about analytics, when in reality it’s both, but more importantly it has many more aspects,” explains Stephan Gayer, regional sales manager, Software AG.

According to IDC, in the Middle East most of the activity to date has been focused on business intelligence (BI), with 35% of regional CIOs having invested in this in 2013 and 41% scoping for 2013. On the analytics front only 11% had invested in 2012 but demand is growing with 42% planning or scoping in 2013.

However the market has reached a turning point and confusion is changing into action with vendors and enterprises working closely on education around big data and its benefits, and although still fairly limited, experimental and pilot big data projects are taking place across the region.

The focus is now moving on to skills, as in order to make the most of big data, companies need to invest in the creation of the right skill sets not just to analyse the data, but also have the right qualifications to gain significant insights into what kind of data is valuable to enhance revenue growth and significantly impact business performance.

“As big data increasingly becomes part of corporate IT strategies and infrastructure, organisations will be on the lookout for specialist analytics skills to unlock business value from it,” notes Shane Fernandes, ECEMEA business intelligence leader, Oracle. “Technical skills around Hadoop, MapReduce, Predictive, Statistical Analytics and NoSQL along with Oracle’s commercial big data frameworks like Engineered Systems are in high demand.”

“The market needs two key areas of skills — Hadoop technical skills and data scientists,” continues Ahmed Auda, director, IBM Software Group, Middle East and Pakistan. “Hadoop is new technology so the market is really in catch up mode here. Data scientists are not born, they are developed inside an organisation that is data driven. They could be an IT person with great business savvy or they could be a business person with IT savvy.”

Teradata’s Fawad A Qureshi, senior technology consultant, Big Data and Hadoop says that data scientists combine a variety of skills across multiple domains including computer science, mathematics, data mining, and business analytics to rapidly explore and discover insights in data.

“A data scientist is like an artist who works with the available technologies to find insights which were previously unknown,” Qureshi explains.

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