Interview with Dr Eugene Dubossarsky from Contexti

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CeBIT Australia recently interviewed Chief Data Scientist, Eugene Dubossarsky of our Gold DataCon Sponsor, Contexti, on his thoughts on Big Data.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and your current role?

As CDS of Contexti, I have two main jobs, each of which is a conversation. The first is the most important one, this is the conversation with the client. This is a delicate and ongoing conversation, where I need to do many things: help the client figure out what they want, which may also require gently educating them in the process, introducing them to the power of data analytics, and most importantly their own role and power in the process.

As a Data Scientist, my role is to let the data tell its story. A good engineer gives data its voice, and my job is to listen to that voice. We thus each have our role to do. My job is to explore the undiscovered country that is data, grab the nuggets of value, identify the hidden risks to avoid, and try to see how it all fits into a big picture, that allows a view of the future, a crystal ball that can help chart a way forward. The cool stuff you hear about machine learning, data visualisation, “big data” and other buzzwords all feature too. But these are just tools.

People, data, and the stories they tell – this is the main part of the job.

2. As we know the term Big Data can be an ambiguous term and mean a lot of different things to people, what is your take on Big Data?

It certainly did the job! This is the one buzz phrase that put “it” on the map, whatever we choose to call “it”. My only point is that “it” needs to be big enough to include “small data” (if we think of “big data” as terabytes), and what I call “tacit data”, which is usually the most important data, but lives in people’s heads rather than electronic data bases. Of course, getting tacit data out is possible and desirable, but that is an entirely different story for another time…
So, with regard to Big Data : For me, the “Big” is not just “Size” or “Speed”. Far more importantly : it is “Big” in terms of “Value”, “Credibility”, “Transformational Potential”. It may also be “small” in size, but require “Big” tools in terms of sophistication, computational power and effort on the part of engineers and scientists to realise this value.
My own term for the latter category is “Big Crunch” – the data itself may be small or medium, but “Big Data” tools make extracting the value possible. These are the techniques I find myself using the most actually.
Volume wise, actual “Big Data” terabytes in size is not the most valuable kind of analysis for most Australian companies. But “Big Crunch” certainly is.

3. Which industries do you see this type of analytics benefiting the most and why?

Name one that doesn’t. I am most excited about the growth of analytics in SMEs. In practice, analytics is vital for organisations facing real competition, real ongoing, disruptive change in their industry, real risks and real uncertainty. This is true for most privately-owned SMEs. Ironically, many organisations that can afford analytics most in Australia probably need it least, but this is where most of the buzz is in the industry.
For me, the real question is: “can your company truly afford to survive without analytics”? The answer for most quantitative hedge funds is “of course not”. I leave it for the reader to identify areas where this might not be the case.

4. What do you think are organisations biggest problems when trying to start a big data project?

Most people don’t realise what they are getting into with data science: it is if anything even more powerful than they thought, but they underestimate the amount of personal investment and change required to realise value.
The biggest misconceptions are around the very nature of analytics, and specifically this thing called “data science”, which is a far more helpful term that “big data”.
In essence, analytics should be about exploration, with engineering/building playing a supportive role, albeit a vital one.
Analytics is about exploring, not building. For a Scientist, data is a rich land of mysteries, and the process is a conversation. A scientists welcomes the unknown. For an engineer, data is a commodity, and the focus is on the tools that move and process it. The unknown is to be shied from and controlled, things must work perfectly. And this is necessary too, so that the scientist may play his part.

Engineers work on “projects” by the way. This model is less appropriate for scientists, as are conventional project management methodologies. Those are also a great way to kill the value of an analytics project, and I have seen this tragedy unfold more than once.

Organisations that get this achieve enormous benefits. Organisations that don’t will fail, dissolve the analytics function and start again, only to fail again because the key misconception has not been addressed.

The other major problem is executives underestimating how much personal investment they must make in analytics. Investing in analytics is like investing in a gym membership or an education : you are not paying to make something go away: you are paying to get a whole lot busier at something that will transform you fundamentally. The executive suite can no more outsource the analytics function than I can outsource my gym workout. I wish I could…

Nevertheless, the view persists that analytics is an IT function, primarily concerned with engineering (building, maintaining), that data is a commodity and that the whole thing has nothing or little to do with the lives of important people in the organisation – these are the biggest challenges to organisations coming to terms with big data.

5. How should an organisation go about even starting a Big Data project?

  1. It isn’t a project, it is an exploration.
  2. Invest in experimentation, not fixed projects. Accept that there may be no value at all in the first six months.
  3. The executive sponsor is the number one fan, supporter, client and leader of the analytics team
  4. “Invest in smarts” – hire smart people, bring in smart advisers, consultants, trainers.
  5. Don’t waste a cent on software until you know exactly what you need and why, having tried a great many things with open source. It is good enough to begin with, especially when you are still trying to figure out what to do with your data.
  6. Don’t be embarrassed that you have no idea what to actually do with your data, or how it leads to value. Just about everyone else is in the same boat.

6. What are some of the tools and technologies that can be employed for a big data project?

There are three levels to this, only one of which is actual “tools” ie IT products. The three levels are:

  1. Business applications – which often require very significant customisation, although they may also be quite similar to applications in other industries/organisations. Or they may be relatively well known things like customer retention for Telco or Insurance claims analysis.
  2. Conceptual tools – these are the things missing in the toolkits of most people with an IT background who make the transition to “data science”. This includes the whole kit bag of machine learning, statistics, visualisation, network analysis and lots of other mathematical/conceptual/computational tools, tricks, methods and maps. While these are indeed embodied in specific software, the conceptual/mathematical understanding of these tools, their applicability to real-world problems, and the ability to use them broadly and in new scenarios sets the true data scientist apart from a hacker.
  3. Software – this is the least important layer. If people are not sure what they need, they should start with something like R. And of courses there are many other open source tools out there. If they can see for themselves where open source tools are not up to the job, then they are “educated buyers”, with a clear need and agenda and should consider commercial tools. I have never seen any new data analytics function that did not need to come to terms with its own needs and data first, and where R was not a sufficient starting point.

About Contexti | Big Data Analytics

Contexti is a premier Big Data Analytics company.
We help customers drive growth, accelerate innovation and create competitive advantage.
With expertise in data-driven strategy, Hadoop and NoSQL technologies and advanced Data Science methods, we provide specialist consulting, training and managed services.
In short, we Create Value from Data™.

Contexti | Big Data Analytics will be leading a workshop at DataCon. Join John Zantey, VP & CTO Contexti at DataCon from 9 – 10 October 2013 at the Hilton Sydney.

Harper Reed, CTO, Obama for America Campaign 2012, delivers his keynote address at CeBIT 2013

Harper discusses how the use of Big Data analytics and Cloud services greatly assisted the Obama administration win the campaign. He goes on to discuss how organisations can get value from their data and what they need to do to get there.

Watch the video here

Interview with Dr Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director IT APAC, Ovum

This week, we had the chance to interview another top speaker: Dr Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director IT APAC from Ovum. He will present at the Cloud @ CeBIT Conference 2013 on 29 May at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In this interview Dr Steve Hodgkinson share his thoughts on the main issues people are facing in Cloud and the strengths for the Australian industry.

He is presenting on The Organisational Impact of Cloud Services Adoption.

1. Please briefly describe your role and responsibility at Ovum.

I am the IT Research Director for Ovum in the Asia/Pacific region, responsible for the research and advisory services that Ovum delivers to its many subscribers in this region. I work with many CIOs and senior executives on ICT strategy, procurement and organisational strategy conundrums.


2. What are you presenting at CeBIT Australia?

I will be discussing the organisational impacts of cloud services adoption based on research and case studies of early adopters. The focus will be on providing insights into how cloud services actually feel in practice in terms of the benefit/risk tradeoffs and the effect on the role of the IT department.


3. What do you think are the main issues that people are facing in Cloud?

The first issue is that we need to stop referring to “cloud”! It sounds too fluffy and untrustworthy. The reality is that the market leading cloud services are trustworthy, robust and secure shared services. The main issues are all about understanding the new benefit/risk tradeoffs and how to fairly evaluate cloud services vs. alternative sourcing options such as in-house, shared services and outsourcing/managed services.


4. Can you describe a current project you’re working on and how the solution/product is helping business to adapt to the challenges of Cloud?

I believe that there is too much ‘hype and nonsense’ in this marketspace, so my main focus is firstly on providing thought leadership around how to understand the opportunities for cloud services to transform the way ICT capabilities are sourced and delivered, and secondly on documenting and sharing case studies and stories about the experiences of early adopters.


5. What do you see as the strengths for the Australian industry and how do these strengths compare globally?

Australia is a ‘trustworthy’ nation in terms of the quality and integrity of our legal, regulatory and technical environments, and we have a skilled ICT local ICT industry, so we are well placed to become an exporter of trusted cloud services to the world. To do this, however, we need to accelerate the speed with which we embrace both the consumption and production of cloud services so that we are learning as fast as possible how to safely consume and deliver cloud services to support mission critical business processes in both the private and public sectors.


6. What trends do you see as influencing your industry?

Rising competitive pressures to innovate combined with constraints on funding and access to people and skills means that all businesses are faced with rising imperatives to ‘do more with less’. This means that we have to continually re-evaluate the value added by our activities and focus our efforts on the activities that really count and that we can do well. Cloud services provide a way to tap into global economies of scale and iteratively evolving services to source relatively commodity-like ICT capabilities better, faster and at lower cost. We can then focus our effort on driving innovative business outcomes (looking up and out!) rather than on managing technology (looking down and in!).


7. What do you believe the future holds for Cloud?

I believe that it is inevitable that cloud services will become a significant element of the ICT sourcing mix for all organisations. The market leading cloud services are simply shared infrastructure and application services that actually work! Once this simple fact becomes more widely understood we will see rising adoption of a wide range of cloud services provided by robust and trusted ecosystems of local and global providers.


8. Anything else you would like to add.

I use the phrase “cloudy is as cloudy does” to summarise the key benefit of the cloud services model. For the first time in the history of the ICT industry it is possible to fully evaluate the functionality and performance of an ICT solution before making a purchase decision. Amazing! This is a stark contrast to the traditional “pay up front and hope that it works in the future” approach. Cloud services are distinguished by the fact that they already exist, at scale, and are engineered to support many different organisations efficiently and securely. They significantly reduce the implementation risk and long timeframes that too often plague ICT projects. This has intuitive appeal to business executives because they are interested in business outcomes, not technology headaches.

See Dr Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director IT APAC, Ovum, at the Cloud Conference @ CeBIT Australia 2013 in Sydney on 28 – 30 May 2013.

Longer Term Implications of Cloud for Organisations & CIO’s

Whether to transition an organisation to cloud based SaaS platforms and if so which provider/s to chose is a question on the mind of many CIO’s. Operationally there should be a checklist of common cloud transition issues that is addressed first.

However in the bigger picture how many of these CIO’s are thinking beyond the obvious short term benefits like shifting spending from capex to opex, to the longer term organisational implications of what is gained and lost by choosing cloud services?

For example changes in patterns of expenditure is one area that is sometimes forgotten when considering cloud based solutions. Inhouse spending on IT infrastructure and staff is an area CIO’s and CFO’s are used to keeping track of.

However usage of cloud services is more abstract, extra costs will be borne by the organisation during any transitional period and service/subscription based charges based on the level of usage can result in unexpected issues eg: running out of monthly API calls during peak periods when many staff are generating reports from the CRM.

Even providers of cloud services are reconsidering what they offer, with AWS recently moving up the value chain by launching a marketplace of applications including offerings from CeBIT exhibitors CA Technologies and IBM.
Read more

Survivor: CIO Edition

CA technologies recently released a report ‘The Future Role of the CIO’ which highlights that Australian CIOs believe cloud computing can position them to be CEOs.

Interestingly 57% of Australian CIO’s surveyed believe that cloud computing is shifting their focus away from technology onto vital business services, increasing their chances of promotion to CEO.

However on a cautionary note, although 70% of Australian CIOs feel ideally positioned to move specifically to the CEO role the reality is 4% of current global CEOs have risen to this role after previously being a CIO.

“There’s no doubt that cloud computing is revolutionising business particularly in these strained economic times. But it’s also breeding a new type of technology leader – one who understands that by using the cloud to innovate, increase speed to market and reduce costs in providing strategic business services, he or she will be in a position to make a significant impact on the business and potentially be positioned to lead it,” said Bill McMurray, Managing Director at CA Technologies Australia & New Zealand.

Martin Retschko, National Practice Director, Hudson ICT commented on the report stating that the:

“Role of the CIO is no longer purely about technology. In Australia, we are seeing that this position is evolving from the traditionally technical role of a CIO to one that is more strategic and business focused.”

“CIOs that show an understanding of, and commitment to developing the business, are much more likely to evolve beyond their traditional role”.

Andi Mann, vice president of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies has an interesting related perspective, feeling that CIO’s need to become a trusted advisor because companies today are quick to eliminate positions that don't add value.

By Andi Mann, vice president of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies

I keep hearing how cloud computing will kill the CIO. Articles, posts, and tweets claim "the CIO is dead," done in by SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, virtualization, and the increasing commoditization of IT resources. IT budgets are being cut (again!), but IT spending overall is going up, according to both IDC and Gartner.

Read more

Interview: Alan Perkins, Specialist IT Consultant, Altium

Alan Perkins, Specialist IT Consultant at Altium Limited, is a Cloud Computing pioneer who has won awards for Altium’s Cloud Computing initiatives as CIO and was a finalist for IDC’s Asia Pacific CIO of the Year.

Alan started as a Chartered Account and has applied this background to over 20 years experience in systems analysis and design. He has spoken around Australia and internationally about the ways in which Altium has applied Cloud concepts to its business and how companies can benefit from innovating in the Cloud.

Alan’s blog is often referenced in the press and he has recently been referred to in the media as one of three contenders for Australian Cloud Visionary. The Australian recently listed him as one of the top 20 people to watch in 2012.

We spoke with Alan to find out more about his high level strategic thoughts about cloud which he will speak about at CeBIT’s Cloud Conference.

Read more

CA Technologies Unveils New CA Global Partner Program

CA Technologies has announced a new CA Global Partner Program that provides an expanded set of benefits to support partner’s evolving business models. The new program supports efforts by solution providers, service providers, alliance partners and resellers to enable customers to deliver innovative business services. It will enable partners to capitalize on the shifting IT landscape and help customers move from maintaining technology to delivering innovative business services.

CA Technologies (NASDAQ: CA) is an IT management software and solutions company with expertise across all IT environments – from mainframe and distributed, to virtual and cloud. CA Technologies manages and secures IT environments and enables customers to deliver more flexible IT services. CA Technologies innovative products and services provide the insight and control essential for IT organizations to power business agility. The majority of the Global Fortune 500 relies on CA Technologies to manage evolving IT ecosystems.

Andi Mann, Vice President, Strategy Solutions, CA Technologies is speaking at CeBIT Australia’s Cloud Conference on 22 May 2012 about how Cloud is transforming the CIO into the Chief Innovation Officer.

Read more

Interview: Chris Ridd, Xero

Chris Ridd is the Managing Director, Australia of Xero. He has been in the Australian IT industry for over 20 years and his experience spans a range of disciplines including enterprise sales and marketing, product management, strategic planning, business analysis and channel development.

Xero is much more than a cloud accounting Software as a Service transactions platform, it’s a social enterprise platform.



While it started in NZ Xero has a strong presence overseas eg: it is the exclusive cloud accounting product for Telstra’s T Suite. Founded in July 2006 by successful technology entrepreneur Rod Drury and specialist small business accountant Hamish Edwards, Xero is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and is a fast growing company with teams in Wellington, Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, San Francisco and the UK.

We spoke with Chris to find out more about Xero and what his key points will be when he participates in the “Keynote Insight Panel: Exploring the Changing Face of the Australian Enterprise” at CeBIT’s Cloud Conference. Xero is also at the CeBIT Exhibition (Stand N12).
Read more

Cloud Migration Issues Check List

Many issues must be considered prior to moving business apps, hosting etc to the cloud. These are some issues you should add to your check list:

Set Clear Objectives & Quantify Benefits

"Cloud" Photo Credit: Neerav Bhatt (Creative Commons)

"Cloud" Photo Credit: Neerav Bhatt (Creative Commons)

While cost savings are touted as a key benefit of migrating to the cloud by moving expenditure from capex to opex there are also other key benefits such as improving business agility, scalability etc.

Quantifying these benefits in terms of financial improvements to your organisation’s bottom line will help to get approval from management for cloud projects.

Read more

Rittal Australia Mobile Data Centre Container Roadshow

In a World 1st Rittal Australia is taking to the streets to showcase it’s innovative mobile Rittal Data Centre Container (RDCC). The first of 65 worldwide Rittal subsidiaries, Rittal Australia is proud to showcase a complete, fully functioning live data centre in all major capital cities.

World 1st - Rittal Australia Mobile Containerised Data Centre Roadshow

World 1st - Rittal Australia Mobile Containerised Data Centre Roadshow

Read more

Crashplan: Automatically Backup Precious Data Offsite

All businesses know that crucial data stored on local servers and staff computers should be backed up both locally and remotely as well in case of fire, flood, theft etc.

These offsite backups should also ideally be automatic because even the most carefully planned manual offsite backup system can fail if the person in charge forgets, is ill or goes on holiday.

Rest assured as there is a clear solution to this problem, just ask CeBIT 2012 exhibitor Code 42 Software at Stand L01. Code 42′s Crashplan service has an Enterprise product that offers automatic offsite backup in different locations of your choice or even multiple locations at once.

Read more

Cloud Transforming CIO’s Into Chief Innovation Officers

Andi Mann, Vice President, Strategy Solutions, CA Technologies is speaking at CeBIT Australia’s Cloud Conference on 22 May 2012 about how Cloud is transforming the CIO into the Chief Innovation Officer.

CA - Cloud Service

CA - Cloud Service

Andi has over 20 years’ experience across four continents, with deep expertise of enterprise software on cloud, mainframe, midrange, server and desktop systems.
Read more

Improve Business Productivity By Investing In ICT

Telstra’s 4th annual Productivity Indicator report has revealed that the number of large Australian organisations which have significantly improved productivity over the last year has declined by 25%.

Telstra USB 4G Modem

Telstra USB 4G Modem

Paul Geason, Group Managing Director, Telstra Enterprise and Government, commented on the report stating:

The Telstra research reveals organisations that invested in staff training, process improvements, more effective customer communications and increased employee engagement had achieved higher improvement in productivity across the last 12 months.
Read more

Control Data Growth with Symantec

Data growth is exploding and the majority of it inside an organization is unstructured information. Despite the best efforts of IT staff and significant investments by management, the business lacks critical insights, such as who owns the data and how it’s being used.

DataPhoto Credit: Neerav Bhatt (Creative Commons)

This leads to significant challenges in managing an organization’s data governance objectives – protecting important business data, achieving regulatory compliance and driving down costs and improving efficiency to manage this rapid data growth.

Data in the cloud has to be managed just as carefully as Data stored onsite, learn how to manage cloud performance at CeBIT Australia’s Cloud Conference on 22 May 2012.

Symantec say that their new Data Insight 3.0 helps organizations improve data governance through data owner identification and visibility into data usage and access permissions. With these insights into the data, organizations should be able to manage data growth in order to reduce costs, protect the data from security risks and manage compliance.

Two of the features we found interesting are:

Discover inactive or orphan data – can be identified, it’s origination point found and the custodians asked to manage or archive it as required by data retention policies.

Improve accountability for storage consumption – storage efficiencies can be gained by identifying data owners by department/business line.

Visit Symantec’s booth N53 at the CeBIT exhibition to learn about Data Insight 3.0, Register Now to ensure you learn about the latest technology innovations and trends that are game changers for business and government