A hallmark of a highly developed economy is that its service sector is much bigger than its agricultural or industrial markets in terms of contribution to the overall GDP. Information technology is accelerating this evolution. The fourth industrial revolution brings the world into the information age, and everything is becoming a service.
Innovation is not crazy
Both consumers and companies are growing more comfortable with seeing more and more activities as services: think on-demand television, music and gaming, or hosting the entirety of Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Commons in the cloud, activated only when needed and from a host of different possible locations and devices. To be sure, this shift is disruptive and not particularly friendly to companies who cannot adapt. Blockbuster went under at an alarming speed, and traditional taxi services are locked in mortal combat with Uber.
However, some companies can also find the power to thrive within this new mindset. They don’t even have to bring a crazy innovation to the “as a service”-table. Sometimes, tweaking or combining existing business models is the path to success in the service world.
Fishing in the lake
Another such promising combination is when a network of technology partners can offer “data lakes” as a service. A data lake is a nice name for a reservoir of company data hosted in the cloud, differing from other types of cloud storage in that it isn’t curated in advance. It can be a swirling mass of unstructured and structured data, for example the day-to-day data output of a supermarket giant or a bank. But this data lake can distinguish itself from a mere data dump by combining it with the right tools.
Hosted by forward-thinking partners, a data lake can be integrated with analysis and intelligence services that have the know-how to fish for the right connections, patterns and trends. This is a substantial step up because it doesn’t just eliminate costs of internal storage and routine busy work, it also creates an opening for IT to feedback information to many other parts of the company. What if a lake analysis proved that people spend more on dairy products on Mondays, for instance? Or what if it turned out employees experience a slump in motivation in the third week of every month? It’s all in that lake.
Value, value, value
In fact, data lakes and the proper coalition of technologies to extract value from them are already here. Capgemini is one such company that has bundled a wide coalition of technologies and services to deliver the goods. In the oil and gas industry, for instance, its offering can collect data in real time during a drilling operation and check it against a vast repository of benchmark data from earlier drills to quickly catch anomalous events, resulting in greater safety and increased precision. Needless to say, this also improves the bottom line.
Similarly, Capgemini has customers that use their offering to link up all their Enterprise-Resource-Planning systems, keeping a continuous overview of global stock levels, signaling movements towards overflow or shortages much earlier than a siloed system with several programs that run independently. This not only makes the supply chain much leaner, it also offers a more complete picture to data analysts. A similar system is used by some supermarket chains, for which Capgemini has developed an end-to-end solution that starts with advanced indicator technology in warehouses and ends with a full operational overview that has predictive qualities. To go back to the lake metaphor – that’s quite a catch.
Building big data alliances
As the examples above indicate, leveraging big data is no longer the province of futurists, it has become a business. However, with something as large and sometimes a little overpowering as the data lake, the wisest choice is to build the right partnerships and alliances to profit from it.
In a world increasingly turning everything into services, for consumers and companies alike, partners that think ahead the farthest are the ones who can shape tomorrow’s business realities. The value alliances create lies not just in the services they offer, or in some bottom line gains, but in the value that these services create for their customers in turn.