Suits & Hoodies: Different Approaches Toward Utilising Big Data

Suits vs Hoodies

Recently I was lucky enough to attend some of lectures at the Gartner Symposium held in Barcelona. The conference was the stage for two sets of battles, the first of which involved Microsoft and Google in the battle of the platforms.

Both companies were peddling the notion of flexible working through mobile technology – ultimately blurring the lines between the employees’ personal life and work life.

Aside from the devices themselves, the main enabler is to put your data into the cloud hosted by either vendor. Doing this allows your data to be used ubiquitously across a range of applications and devices – anywhere you happen to be.

Production versus Protection

It will surely be interesting to see how companies trade the productivity gains against the negatives of cyber risks, supply chain risks (failures in platform provider infrastructure), and the general increasing risk of data loss through a more mobile workforce.

Clearly to allow productivity while controlling risk is going to be tough for many companies, this idea links nicely with a second battle at the conference.

Two tribes: Suits & Hoodies

Big Data seemed to be one of the most popular presentation themes at the conference, partly because of the usual hype around the subject but more because the speaker, Frank Buytendijk, delivered an inspirational presentation delivering both a vision through to 2020, while casting an insightful and humorous eye over the subject.

Like many, I could easily relate to the description of two identifiable groups of people within organisations – the “suits” and the “hoodies.”

Suits are those who are associated with “top-down approaches,” “standards,” “change management,” “metadata,” “standardisation,” and as such, relate to the IT teams of the past 20 years.

The “hoodies” are those who are associated with terms such as “disruptive”, “agile”, “innovation”, “unstructured”, “Big Data”, “bottom-up” and so on. Naturally these two groups have conflicting principles but the trick is to bring the strengths of both to the table.

Perhaps this means taking the hoodie approach at the start of a project lifecycle to drive innovation, value, productivity and data product.

Once value is recognised and established, the emphasis is shifted towards the suits to ensure standardisation, centralisation, enterprise adoption and full control of security, change management etc.

My personal belief is to utilise the best of both in tandem throughout the lifecycle but this can encourage conflict.

The vision outlined by Gartner was that by 2015, 85% of companies will be exploiting value from Big Data to some extent and that by 2016, 30% of companies will have found a way to monetise it.

Time to Tread Carefully

Of particular interest from an insurance stand-point was the prediction that by 2016 26% of companies will encounter a reputational risk or a loss from the misuse of Big Data.

Cases such as TomTom show that when companies take data used in one context and aggregate it, if it creates value when used in a completely different context, they risk a backlash emanating from those who originally supplied the data.

Food for thought for risk managers in companies and indeed the insurance industry which needs to help companies manage this particular risk. Perhaps this also serves as an early warning for insurance and other intermediaries who by their very nature, manage and use data on behalf of their customers.

About Nigel Davis

Nigel Davis is a Managing Director within Willis’ Global Analytics team. He joined Willis in the late 1990s to wo…
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5 Responses to Suits & Hoodies: Different Approaches Toward Utilising Big Data

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