The Data is our new oil!
By Abed Ajraou, Data & Insights Director, Lead Data Scientist & AI, First Utility
The term Big Data is most of the time misused, so let’s start with some definition. According to Gartner, Big Data is a high volume, high velocity, and high variety information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization. The Big Data keeps evolving very fast during the last 10 years. The main challenge is to keep ourselves up-to-date in term of technology. For instance, mixing Apache Kafka with Kudu give us an extensive opportunity to deliver insights in real time.
However, we have to be aware of the youth of this technology and to be extremely reactive and agile when exploring new features.
2. Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership/ solutions providers from the lot?
We only considered the three majors Hadoop distribution i.e. HortonWorks, Cloudera and MapR. We have chosen Cloudera distribution because of the open source platform and its vision in the Big Data market. Cloudera had developed and released in the open source community several products which are very popular now. The last data component they have released was Kudu which is the next maturity level in term of data storage and processing.
MapR is interesting to watch as they have been recently been chosen by SAP to be their Big Data platform and maybe remove HANA which didn’t meet the whole Big Data aspiration. HortonWorks remains the full open source stack Big Data platform with lot of potential.
3. Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently Overseeing?
Big Data is useless if it’s not business focused. We have built several business insights on top of a Big Data platform. The first application is the modernization of a Business Intelligence platform. In fact the Big Data allow us to jump in the next generation of Business Insights by using unstructured data and fast computation. We are also building artificial intelligence engines on top of a big data platform (and also with block chain data). These artificial intelligence algorithms help us to optimize and to reduce the cost to serve. Without a Big Data platform, these algorithms were not scalable and not even possible.
Big Data allow us to jump in the next generation of Business Insights by using unstructured data and fast computation
4. What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
The first point of discussion was to meet our GDPR requirement. We needed a Big Data platform that could easily manage the consent data, enable the customers to retrieve their own data and apply easily the right to be forgotten.
We had also discussed the business benefit of this Big Data platform. The key benefit of having a real Big Data architecture is to have no limit in term of storage and processing. This situation has opened the door to test some new business ideas in order to create more value.
5. Can you draw an analogy between your personality traits, hobbies and how they reflect on your leadership strategy?
In our digital world it has become very hard to stay focused; we are easily distracted by emails, texts, tweets, Linkedin or even Facebook messages. For this reason, I’ve chosen to practice archery which allows me to concentrate on my shoot and therefore have a couple of hours I can switch my mind to one single task.
Also, it allows me to have the right spirit. Indeed, every archer knows that the perfection doesn’t exist. And it’s one of the big mistakes in our day-to-day work to want everything perfect. An archer is every time trying to improve his style and his focus by learning from his mistakes; he knows he cannot do a perfect shot every time. It’s exactly the same in our science, we try to improve the way we are working, and we are improving and learning from our mistakes.
6. How do you see the evolution of the Big Data arena a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
Big Data has already entered in the new sphere which is the AI. Many Big Data providers and even Data Visualisation tool propose now a self-served way to perform machine learning algorithms.
I believe the evolution of Big Data platform will be to prove the value by getting a more easy way to deploy and run automatically some business cases. I can imagine coming some dedicated big data business vertical software where everything will be setup and plug and play.
As Gartner said in a recent study, more than 40 percent of Data Science tasks will be automated by 2020. We have already seen this trend in Big Data, where some software are trying to simplify and automatise some machine learning algorithms.
7. What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?
The first advice I can give is technology watching! This area is evolving so fast that there are incredible opportunities and other ways to tackle a problem.
The second will be to have a smart way to read the market. The most successful entrepreneur is the one who can see what others cannot, and detect a very good position in his product by using the best technology available. The best US companies are putting the technology in the centre of their business; the technology is not just an enabler, it’s also a key competitive advantage.
And my last advice is be passionate. If you love the data sphere and you see all the changes happening, you are going to have fun and you will embrace with passion this new world.