I've been spending the last few months doing research and a number of speaking engagements and webinars on the evolution of Big Data in Asia Pacific. What has become clear is that APAC organisations are struggling with the disruptive forces of big data – whether they have actually implemented it or not.
Disruptive technologies are often assumed to be disruptive because of the transformational benefits they might bring to those organisations that actually implement them. However, this research has highlighted that disruption exists simply because the concept exists. Whether the term relates to something physical or real (or not), it's still becoming disruptive to the organisation. We've seen this many times before – cloud computing, radio frequency identification tags (RFID), electronic market places – the list goes on.
How companies choose to cope with this disruption…or how they attempt to challenge it head-on…is particularly interesting. For some, it's a case of complete denial – "there's nothing new or different about this technology (or the problems that it's supposed to be solving)…so we don't need to do anything". For others it's a case of failing fast and pushing the bounds of what is, or what is not, possible. Whether Big Data is the underlying driving force or not, really doesn't matter. It's a catalyst for change that brings a change in thinking, a change in organisational priorities and a change in operational and project budget allocations.
Addressing Big Data opportunities, along with many other disruptive technologies, is not simply a matter of deploying a "proof of concept" project. Even if it were, the disruption starts well before any hardware, software or expertise ever comes into the organisation. The conversations and exploration that leads to analysis of opportunities and risks are just as (if not more) disruptive to the organisation than the technology itself. In Asia Pacific, there's still a lot of talk and postulation about the definitions and characteristics of Big Data. This is disruptive. It challenges the business to examine its thinking, to re-evaluate what it thinks it knows, and to make some decisions (at some point) about what it wants to do about it.
The disruption for organisations in Asia Pacific is possibly even more significant than in many other parts of the world though. Not only because of what these Big Data technologies and techniques can ultimately bring, but because of the wide variance of economic, political, cultural, lingual and other influences that exist within the region. It's incredibly difficult to pin this thing down to just a few common use cases, a few best practise implementation models or a few market leading vendors. The disruption actually comes from the myriad of case studies, the multitude of vendor options (and myths) and the user stories that are being published in the media, talked about at conferences – and even displayed on airport billboards, inside magazine articles and on mainstream television media.
Big data in Asia Pacific is clearly happening and it is already very real. Our research data shows that. But not everyone will adopt it. And not everyone will have equally great experiences with it. The challenge for organisations operating in the Asia Pacific region will be to choose the solutions, architectures, vendors and sourcing options that best suit them. Not necessarily a consultant recommended "global best practise". As I often say to clients, the days of the "When Harry Met Sally" IT strategy are long gone. "We'll have what they're having"* is no longer appropriate. So, waiting for the dust to settle and to see the fallout that has occurred, is not making a decision based on improving organisational performance. It's based on a severe aversion to risk.
We're just about to release some initial research findings on the experiences with Big Data across Asia Pacific written by myself and Michael Barnes. Our first report will be out very soon. And there'll no doubt be plenty more to come. What is clear, even from this initial research, is that – even if you're not doing anything with it (yet) – Big Data is already a disruption. To embrace it? Avoid it? Surround it? Subsume it? Ignore it? The choice is yours. But think about what the disruption really means to the organisation – and do something constructive with that.
Let me know your experiences with Big Data in Asia Pacific so we can continue to research and keep track of its evolution.
*The actual quote from the movie "When Harry Met Sally" was "I'll have what she's having." An interesting side note is that this particular movie – and this particular line from it – seems to be well recognised in almost every country and region across Asia Pacific!