Big data, digital economies, and the rise of the CTO
If you don’t have a strategy for managing your data, you’ll fall as far behind as companies who didn’t have a strategy for the web, says SoftServe CTO Neil FoxShow transcript
SoftServe CTO Neil Fox updates The New Economy on the latest trends in software development, the growing significance of the Chief Technology Officer, and the challenges for businesses when leveraging new technologies.
Getting your next great technological idea off the ground could just be a click away thanks to the latest digital trend. Here to set the stage for these developments, Neil Fox.
The New Economy: Neil, what are some of these trends in software development?
Neil Fox: For years, in fact for decades, analysts like Forrester and Gartner have been talking about the CIO and the CTO role having more evolution in being a business partner, coming to the table as a true executive and not somebody that’s just controlling cost, but really driving the business and driving revenue.
Well, I’m happy to say that here in 2015, that trend has come to fruition. Today, CIOs and CTOs, VPs of Development, are true business partners with their companies. If you’re a CEO and your CTO or CIO is not having a seat at the table, I don’t think you’re going to be around very much longer. So on the business side, that trend I’m happy to say is finally complete.
The New Economy: Now, big data of course is one of those buzzwords in the tech sector today, yet little is really known about how it operates. Can you briefly tell me about its function and how companies are taking advantage?
Neil Fox: Let’s think about big data versus small data. Small data is what we’ve had in the past, which is managing essentially records coming from both internal and external systems that are very precise. Company name, address, telephone number, little bits of structured data.
Think about big data, that includes not just those pieces of information which we are collecting, but it also includes unstructured data, data that is typed into freeform text fields, like notes from a healthcare provider, or remarks that you might make about a product or service, or even a tweet or an Instagram post or something like that.
So we think about big data being the underlying infrastructure, the database structure, the hardware that is distributed, that is needed to compute all of these records, both structured and unstructured data, and then the other component of it is the analytics that sit on top of that.
So now that you’ve got all of these millions and billions of records, what do you do with it? How do you make sense out of it? And so the big analytics that sits on top of all that data not just tells you in a descriptive way what’s happened in the past or what might be going on currently, but they’re adding predictive analytics. What do you do with that data? What does it mean? Can we predict, and we can, shopping trends or healthcare trends or other kinds of important actions to take based upon that data.
The New Economy: Now beyond these trends, what are the key challenges for companies today in leveraging new technologies and in software development?
Neil Fox: I would say the number one challenge that we see from our clientele is what we think about as business agility. How do we make sure that we are as nimble as we can be? Today, if you have a smartphone, or even you’re using web applications, those applications are being updated on a constant basis. So agility is number one challenge and number one opportunity. If you’re not conducting agile methodology, if you’re not seeing your business look at their audience and their feature set and the value that they’re delivering in a very real-time way, you might need some assistance.
Number two is access to enough scalable resources. We had talked just a minute ago about big data. Those resources, people that understand the technology and the statistical analytics that sit on top of that are in high demand and scarce availability. So getting enough of those resources to make sense and to turn that into opportunity is a big challenge.
The third one is really alignment between R&D and the business. Getting them together not just for short term planning, but for long term strategic growth. We’ve seen a number of companies that have had one hit, they’ve had a great idea, they’ve brought it to market, it’s kind of hit its maturity phase, and now what? What’s our next plan? So you don’t want to be a one hit wonder. You want to have a strategy for long term growth.
The New Economy: Now, how will your company help overcome some of the challenges that you identified?
Neil Fox: At SoftServe, we’re really focused on those three major challenges that we just discussed. Access to scalable resources is really where a lot of companies get introduced to us, they’re looking for global resources. Well SoftServe has got development centres throughout eastern Europe, and we can hire and build teams of any size, whether it be two or three, or 100 or 200 people, in order to fill the gap on those areas where companies need some additional assistance.
Area number two, we do have a large consultancy practice to help you build long term strategic plans, so if you do need help in that area, we have people that are located again throughout Europe and the US that can work with our clients to make sure that they’re thinking about all the implications and all the opportunities for big data or mobile applications, any other technical platforms. Maybe modernising their existing applications into mobile or cloud-based apps, we help with that too.
The most important element that we bring to the table is in this concept of agility, which is where most companies seem to have the biggest challenges and struggle the most. Not just in making the most efficiency out of their software development practices, but helping them align to the business and build a culture and a philosophy of kind of real-time dynamic change and dynamic adoption.
The New Economy: Now finally, what’s the one thing CEOs should be doing today to position their company for the new digital economy?
Neil Fox: If we think just a few years into the future intelligent applications will be very much like the web applications of today. If you’re not a company that has a strategy for managing your data, validating it, normalising it and analysing your big data, then you’re going to be behind the curve the way that companies were late to the table with web development and web applications.
Just a few years from now, big data is going to be driving the growth and the usefulness and the value across industries, whether it be healthcare or retail or enterprise technology, or even emerging companies, they’re all going to be built on big data analytics, so that would be the one area I would focus on if I was a CEO today.