Swimming in the Cloud, Drowning in Big Data

Darren Cockrel, CIO, Coyote Logistics, a UPS Company [NYSE: UPS]
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Cloud solutions have pierced the enterprise space, opening new possibilities for agility. If you look around, it's gotten very cloudy! Applications for human resources, expense management, and corporate training would require special circumstances to not be cloud-based these days. Email and identity management are mature in the cloud space, managing some very critical IT services.

As for platform- or infrastructure-as-a-service, you’ll see similar increasing maturity. Since many software-as-a-service platforms are underpinned by other cloud providers, adoption of one cloud service will drive improvements and scale of another.

Significance of Integration

One of the big ideas behind cloud is speed to implementation. Just turn it on, log on, and you're there! It’s a very short path to value. Integration is still something that needs extra focus, but in general, there are fewer struggles to generate value. Like any software change, process improvements are the sticky and most value-generating part. This is the time to lay in new integration points, to automate or eliminate workflows, and to look broadly into why you’re doing the things you do. You need to get the expertise and the will to change what you’re already doing, plus the forward thinking to put that new technology to its highest and best use.

  â€‹Adoption of one cloud service will drive improvements and scale of another  

The Danger and the Beauty of Ever-Growing Data

Obviously we are capturing more data in more places than ever before, and we are seeing insights from that new data, at least according to the marketing literature. This new data can do plenty for us, or it can do plenty to us. If reams of data can’t be anchored against an activity or other event, that congestion might add complexity and cost without adding value. Using this data to enrich the events in our businesses will yield new and exciting ways for us to grow, if we can handle the data congestion.

Plenty of data are directly applicable to our businesses, and I believe that generally people are getting smarter about using the data they already have. At Coyote, we’re a non-asset company, meaning we are using trucking capacity owned by other people to improve and serve the supply chain of our customers. To thrive in this space, you need to excel in many areas, including how to find and use capacity that would be invisible in the traditional supply chain. That has been, and continues to be, what I find the most exciting about the entire third-party logistics space. And none of it works without amazing technology and strong techniques to pull the pieces together.

When to Follow the Trend, When to Reject It, When to Change Your Mind

IT trends are easy to spot—they wash over our email inboxes and lead the keynote at every IT conference. The information you’re consuming should be advising you to make an informed decision, not pushing you to follow a trend.

You may decide that some technology trends just don’t fit, at least not today. Like it or not, if enough people use something in the tech world, it will mature and likely become a fit for you in the future. And you don’t want to be the person rooting against new technology.

How can you keep fresh eyes and sharp judgment in a world where you should reject an idea this month, then advocate its adoption the next month? To help stay clear on the outcomes we’re after, I avoid descriptors like “big data” and “cloud.” When looking for a solution to a real problem, too many general terms can hold back the conversation, or give the impression that everyone is seeing the problem in the same way.

Some people struggle with selecting big data tools because they don't have big data. Some people think that the cloud is the answer, but they may not know the question. Before buying anything, sit down and describe the problem without using any industry acronyms or any tech speak. Just pick three or four key questions you want to answer, or problems you have, and then figure out if this technology helps you or not.

Keep this quote from John Dewey in mind: “It is a familiar and significant saying that a problem well put is half-solved.” Sometimes there might be reasons to lay in a product without really knowing how it will be used, but I can't think of a place where that has ever worked for me.

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