Big Data

Applying Parenting Skills to Big Data: Play with Friends and Learn from Experience

Doug Cackett By Doug Cackett EMEA Big Data & IoT Solution Lead, Dell EMC Consulting June 12, 2018

This series of blogs was inspired by a discussion I had with a customer senior executive when I found myself exploring the topic of value creation, big data and data science through the lens of parenting skills – offering a different and relatable way of thinking through the challenges many organizations face.

In the first blog, Applying Parenting Skills to Big Data: Focus on Outcomes and Set Boundaries, I discussed the notion of ‘long term greedy’ and governance. The second one, Applying Parenting Skills to Big Data: Provide the Right Tools and a Safe Place to Play…and Be Quick About It!, covered tools, discovery environments and industrializing the process to realize value from your data as quickly as possible. I’ll finish out the series focusing on roles and responsibilities, working with partners and learning from the analytics journeys and missteps of others.

A Familiar Pattern of Play

Watching kids play has to be one of the greatest treasures in life, and that’s never more so when they are playing with their best friends as they’ve already learned how to play together and what each brings to the party. They might fall into a familiar pattern of play as a result but it’s one that works and yields a happier, more productive experience for all involved.

Try this experiment at home – next time your kids are in full-on game mode with their best friends tell them you and your spouse want to play as well. See what happens to the game then? You’ve crashed their party and the kids are probably not too thrilled with the interruption or your lack of gaming skills!

We find the same to be true for big data solutions.To achieve full digital transformation in the organization, you need to apply data science to every aspect of the business. To do so affordably, you need to minimize the time taken to discover and operationalize insights and increase the cadence of those experiments. What we have found is that in order to achieve that, the people that aren’t directly involved need to stand back from the process so as not to disrupt or delay it.

Knowing Your Place in the Sandbox

In the case of enterprise big data, we’re talking about the IT and Security teams. They have a vital part to play in the enablement processes, in provisioning a safe place to play and the tooling that’s needed, but they have no role in what happens during the discovery process.

To be effective and maximize the speed and cadence for discovery and monetization, you need to architect and implement a platform that allows your IT and Security teams to stand well back from the process.

CEOs measure outcomes, not intermediate steps.The business doesn’t benefit at all until the pattern or whatever it is the data scientist is looking for in the data is actually implemented into a system of engagement. In turn, as a CDO I’m looking at eliminating waste and delays in the discovery – monetize and optimize chain.There is no greater waste than having your most valued asset – the data scientist – sit on their hands while waiting for an suitably sized environment or for the data they need to use, or the libraries they want to try or… or…

Get Out of the Plumbing Business

We have experience working with clients at every level of maturity in their Big Data journey and across all industries. Based on this experience, we have built a solution called the Elastic Data Platform (EDP), and while we offer a full portfolio of consulting services, we increasingly find ourselves talking about EDP with customers because it fills the gaps in what they are looking to achieve and enables them to use their existing Big Data infrastructure and investments. It helps them focus on outcomes rather than plumbing.

And just like your children when they play with friends, we have built the solution with our friends, filling some key gaps around standard Hadoop distributions. For instance, we use a tool from Blue Data to spin up Hadoop and other components almost instantly into Docker containers. You can choose between a variety of cluster sizes and configurations with ingress and egress edge nodes, various tools such as SAS Viya and connect these to back-end data sources through a policy engine and enforcement points that allow you to provide full fine-grained access control and redaction. Importantly, these clusters can be spun up and torn down in seconds.

Learn from Those Who Have Gone Before You

As well as learning from their friends and through play, it’s also important for kids to learn from their elders; people who have been there, seen it and done it all before. Importantly, kids learn both about specifics (look before crossing the road) and more general things that help to shape their views of the world. Both are important as that helps them learn while not getting hampered by things that are inevitably changing around them.

At Dell EMC, we work across a wide range of difficult and challenging environments in every industry. We see technologies on the leading edge of the wave as well as those that have already been well established. We also have a chance to stand back and understand what the fundamentals are – what works, and importantly, what doesn’t.

In many ways, the Elastic Data Platform along with a number of deployment patterns we have for Dell EMC’s underlying technologies underpins that experience. However, we also support our customers in a range of different engagement styles and specialties, whether it’s specifics around particular technologies such as modern AI platforms or current Hadoop tooling or at a much higher strategic level to shape your future direction.

Bringing It All Together

This wraps up my series on parenting skills and how they relate to big data and analytics.  I’ve hit on many of the key points I see organizations consistently challenged by. No doubt there are many other parallels we could draw, so let me know if you have any additional suggestions for the list!

Doug Cackett

About Doug Cackett


EMEA Big Data & IoT Solution Lead, Dell EMC Consulting

Doug leads the Dell EMC Big Data & IoT Consulting practice in EMEA, engaged in helping our customers deliver more value from their entire information management estate, including modernizing legacy enterprise data warehouses and operational data stores and fully exploiting the power of Big Data and IoT technologies.

Doug has a background and practical experience working with data mining and machine learning tools, as well as designing and delivering large scale information systems for many of the largest companies around the world. Through his combined experience, Doug is uniquely positioned to offer insights and perspective at the intersection of data science and information management.

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