Fortunately, the barrier to entry is low from a technical and cost standpoint, and companies such as Cloudera are bringing big data technologies in reach for the smallest of businesses. However, you still need the in-house expertise to make sense of the all the numbers. You can put all these numbers from all over the place into a blender and get an answer, but it will be meaningless if you don't understand the question you're trying to answer.
"Maybe downstream you need some analytics, [but] at the front it's really hard to get all your data out of your SAP system [and] into a Hive," Hauck says. "That doesn't come for free, and that doesn't come without expertise."
Big Data's Customer Service Imperative
Such problems aside, ignore big data at your peril, Hauck cautions. The companies that "get it," and understand that it's about managing expectations as much as information, will benefit.
Think about your own interactions with the companies you work with. If it takes days (instead of seconds) to update your records, or if the customer service representative can't see a list of service calls and outcomes on her display and react accordingly, you are going to feel like the company is inept, incompetent or, worst of all, doesn't care about you as a customer.
Big data will put the expectation of instantaneous feedback and reaction into hyper-drive. Those that embrace this change, and the velocity of it, will be the winners. "Amazon is the exception to the rule today," Hauck says, but we're not far from companies being described as "slow" and "dumb" if they aren't monitoring customers in real time.
"A few years from now, someone's going to say 'You didn't change your application based on what I did a minute ago? Don't you care about me?'" he suggests. "It's going to separate the 'haves' and the 'have-nots,' much like...brick-and-mortar vs. Internet shops. Big data is going to create that kind of divide."
It appears that most enterprises planning to avoid this fate. Prior to his conversation with CIO.com, Hauck walked out of a meeting of Fortune 500 CIOs. "It's on everyone's mind," he says. "Part of the struggle in today's business economic environment is [wondering if]can people squirrel away enough resources to take a swing at it?"
Time will tell, of course. You can always swing and miss, as some surely will, just as some unexpected winners will come out of nowhere to claim victory and play spoiler.