Big Data, Small Screens

Big Data and Mobile Apps Are Converging in the Enterprise

Yesterday, I nearly drowned in a sea of extraneous data. In just one hour during an important conference call, my laptop overflowed with 300 e-mails from an email thread I frankly didn’t care about. Imagine how much time I could have saved if my system knew I was unavailable, and sent me only the two notifications I truly needed: That the customer I was on the call with owed us an invoice, and that my next appointment was delayed by half an hour.

Clearly, enterprise users need an easy and intuitive way to parse all their data into a useful context. Just as clearly, they also need to have the right information delivered to them at the right time, on the right device. These days, that device is likely to be mobile — be it laptop, smartphone or tablet — as sales of desktop computers erode and enterprises increasingly accommodate tablets in the workplace..

I say it’s time for big data to play a starring role on the small screen — the small screen of mobile devices, that is. Businesses primarily view big data as collecting and storing zetabytes of data from diverse sources for eventual business analysis. But in today’s connected and mobile world, decision-makers can’t wait for “eventual.” They need big data apps that intelligently gather and analyze data as it comes in from other apps on their device (your calendar and sales management apps, for instance). Think of the ramifications: big data apps could suggest different ways to improve sales or — dare I say it — know not to send me thousands of emails on topics I don’t care about when my calendar shows I’m in a meeting.

Such contextual real-time analytics can be extended across any number of roles and tasks: A sales rep driving to one meeting could be alerted that a good prospect two blocks away wants to meet. A Chief Marketing Officer could see which social media campaigns deliver the best return on investment. Or an inventory manager could know which store just sold out of fashion’s “It” purse and needs immediate replenishment. These are just examples. The convergence of big data and enterprise mobile apps means that anyone, anywhere, can glean the insight she needs to make better, faster decisions.

Think Like a Consumer

The key is in the design. Developers building mobile apps for the enterprise need to combine the ease of use of consumer apps with enterprise-class security and data-collection technologies. And they need to optimize their apps for each device’s small screen.

Consider Intuit’s Mint, which organizes and analyzes consumers’ finances. The company’s desktop, tablet and smartphone apps are all designed to maximize both screen real estate and context. On the desktop app, you can manage and sort your finances in full detail. Mint’s tablet app is smaller and more limited, enabling you to see a list of accounts, but not interact with them in the same depth. Its smartphone app focuses on notifications. Imagine how much could get done if businesses designed their big data apps this way.

In healthcare, for example, doctors making bedside rounds could tap into mountains of clinical research to discover the optimum treatments for their patients — and they could see the results as instantly intuitive charts or as scrollable lists (similar to the iPhone’s email app) depending on whether they’re carrying tablets or smartphones.

In IT, big data apps could predict cyber-attacks and send alerts, show scenarios and recommend actions depending on which mobile device technologists are carrying.

These are just examples, but I firmly believe that big data will soon permeate every aspect of business. I also believe that the convergence of contextual, real-time, data with mobile devices makes everyone and everything smarter. When you look at it that way, the small screen becomes huge.

A Look Back at 2012: A Reminder to Cherish all Things Right and Good

As I look back at 2012, I’m reminded of Charles Dickens’ opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” In the year now passing, we have seen Sandy’s fury and the horrors of Newtown, and we also have witnessed amazing acts of discovery, wonder and acts of kindness. I prefer to remind myself of the good things that happened — in the world around us and in my company, GoodData. Which is why my look back is one of thanks.

And so, I give thanks for man’s curiosity and capacity to achieve great things. To me, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour atop a jumbo jet epitomized our desire to constantly reach for the stars. And we saw that same yearning for the great and new after Curiosity traveled hundreds of millions of miles to land safely on Mars.

I also give thanks for technology’s impact on our everyday lives. This year, that impact is embodied by the combination of cloud computing, mobility and big data. This nexus of technologies changes everything.

With cloud computing, for example, we have the technology to pull in data from hundreds of sources — no matter if it’s social media, email, cloud-based apps, suppliers’ enterprise software or companies’ internal applications.

Mobile computing has reshaped how we expect to see that information, with users demanding fast access to visually intuitive apps and data.

And big data — specifically the emerging ability to make sense of vast sums of data — is changing how researchers, medical workers and business people find what’s important so they can make better decisions. These technologies have transformed how and where we work.

Taken together, cloud, mobile and big data have made 2012 a very good year for GoodData, allowing us to experience incredible momentum: We grew our annual revenue fivefold, tripled our customer base to 8,000 customers, doubled our staff to reach 220 employees, and tripled the number of our Powered By partners. And, we raised $25 million in a Series C round of funding, for almost $55 million to date.

This past year we’ve also honed our go-to market strategy, making it easier for our customers to harness and benefit from big data. The pillar of our new BizData Monetization strategy is Bashes — cloud-based, pre-built apps on our platform that enable anyone, in any size business, to turn mountains of disparate data into insight they can act on.

This year I’m also grateful for our amazing, new and existing customers, including mobile marketer Urban Airship, CourseSmart, who hosts the world’s largest library of eTextbooks and digital course materials, Time Warner and Pandora, which are all using GoodData to mine their data and uncover new sources of revenue and profit.

But GoodData is more than apps that present information in meaningful ways. It’s also a cloud-based platform that partners use to build apps for their specific needs. And I have to say: We have more than 100 exceptional partners including procurement software company Coupa, wine and spirits distributor GreatVines, customer-community provider Get Satisfaction, ShopLocal, a leading provider of online marketing retail solutions, Zendesk, a leading provider of Web-based customer-support software, and Zuora, the the global leader in Relationship Business Management solution

Finally, none of this would be able without our amazing employees, or what I affectionately call the GoodTeam. A big thank you to all of you, for making GoodData a great company, on our way to building a long-lasting legacy.

So thank you 2012 for an incredible year. I am profoundly grateful.

Here’s to an even more amazing New Year for us all.

Big Data Conundrum: Show me the money!

Inventory levels. Sales results. Negative comments on Facebook. Positive comments on Twitter. Shopping on Amazon. Listening to Pandora. Online search habits. No matter what you call it or what the information describes, it’s all data being collected about you.

Thanks to new technologies like Hadoop, once-unquantifiable data (like Facebook conversations and Tweets) can now be quantified. Now, because nearly everything is measurable, everything is measured. The result: companies are spending big dollars to collect, store and measure astronomical amounts of data.

Show me the data!

There’s a name for this movement: Big Data. Not only is it a name, it has been the “it, it” of 2012, possibly trumping “the cloud.”

IDC defines Big Data as projects collecting 100 terabytes of data (hence the name), comprising two or more data formats. Earlier this year, the research firm predicted the market for Big Data technology and services will reach $16.9 billion by 2015, from $3.2 billion in 2010. That’s an astounding 40 percent annual growth rate.

The interesting thing is that IDC expects most of this spending to focus on infrastructure — the plumbing that enables companies to download, collect and store vast amounts of data.

To me, this is a missed opportunity. Why? We need to focus on unlocking the real business benefits from all this data.

Companies have not yet grasped the business potential of all the data pouring in from hundreds of sources—think apps in the cloud, on-premise partner software and from their own enterprise. In effect, businesses haven’t figured out how to make money from this fire hose of disparate data sources.

My point-of-view is that Big Data’s only real value lies in businesses’ ability to transform data into insight they can act on.

This means enabling sales managers to quickly analyze sales reps’ results, view new contracts lost or signed, and react to how actual performance compares against the plan they set months earlier. Help-desk staff could see how individual customers affect sales and profit, showing them when to go above-and-beyond to retain certain customers while allowing low-flyers to churn. Or helping insurance agents to predict kinds and amounts of damage as hurricanes hurtle toward their region.

Steps to Monetize Big Data

To glean value from Big Data efforts, companies need to embrace the real-time value provided by the cloud. Viewing one’s data in real-time through the lens of cloud computing enables anyone, in any company, to make smart business decisions from the mammoth amounts of data, coming from all over the place.

Therefore, companies looking to monetize Big Data need to take these steps:

Use the cloud: These days businesses can tap into an enormous range of cloud services. They can subscribe to high-performance infrastructure services like Amazon Web Services, rent platforms as a service (comprising hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity) from salesforce.com, store information in services like Box or automate billings with companies like Zuora. These are just examples.

Companies can also pick and choose from a long list of cloud-based apps to handle business tasks, from customer relationship management and marketing to human resources and financial management. In fact, I would argue that cloud services become the business application suite, eventually displacing behemoth on-premise packages from SAP or Oracle. Emphasis on “eventually,” since few enterprises are ready to jettison their million-dollar investments in Oracle and SAP.

For this reason, I advise companies to:

Start with what’s important: Forget about separate data sources. Data today spews in from hundreds sources, be it sales and customer data from salesforce.com, inventory levels from SAP, logistics information from your suppliers and employee data from Oracle. Companies run into trouble when they start off boiling the ocean, which is why I suggest companies begin with a few sources and then build up from there.

Fortunately, there is a way, thanks to a new generation of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allows more kinds of software, from different software makers, to communicate with each other, regardless of location. As a result, any company, regardless of size, can access the data it needs to make better decisions.

Which is why my next point is:

Make Big Data insight democratic: Five years ago, only executives at very large companies had access to business intelligence tools that culled patterns from data.

The cloud makes everything democratic — not just access to the data itself, but the insight as well, including best practices that don’t require the expertise of a SQL or a MapReduce programmer. The cloud enables anyone, anywhere, to recognize patterns from data and make smart decisions, faster. And that means any business professional, at any company should be able to monetize their Big Data.

When Big Data finally becomes useful to the rest of us, and not just IT wizards, it will take on an even larger role today and into tomorrow.