Big data, the term used to describe a collection of data sets so large and complex that they are difficult to process using standard database management tools or traditional data processing applications, has become a hot topic these days. Some are going so far as to call it “sexy”, says Yolandi Nortje, executive of Intuate Group.
In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, the role of data scientist is the sexiest job in the world in the 21st century. And according to Forbes, the data scientist is the “definition of sexy”, as they deal with the challenges associated with the capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualisation of big data sets.
Is this all just hype? Not so, according to Forbes who claims that big data is the biggest thing to hit the industry since the PC was invented. The PC changed the world and now the data movement is doing the same.
To put things in perspective, the leading analyst in the big data market, Jeff Kelly from open source research firm Wikibon, says that big data is currently a $5-billion business. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. By 2017, Wikibon predicts the big data market will top $50-billion.
So what does this all mean? It means that new business models will be enabled that leverage big data to deliver revolutionary analytic capabilities, as well as the development of unique apps to solve critical business problems.
But, what does this mean for project management offices (PMOs)? Will this emerging trend have an impact on the PMO and its role within the organisation? Will the PMO that embraces this emerging technology trend reshape the perception of their role?
In the past, the high failure rate of traditional PMOs has hindered their being considered “sexy”. Failure is not pretty. This, combined with the perception of PMOs as inflexible, bureaucratic agencies and nasty enforcers of rigid and often unnecessary processes and redundant deliverables, has contributed to a fairly negative view.
How about today? While many PMOs will cleave to traditional approaches, forward-thinking PMOs will embrace emerging trends such as big data as an opportunity to redefine their role as a valuable and strategic partner capable of providing solutions aligned to the enterprise’s most complex business objectives. PMOs that cannot make this transformation will quickly become outmoded.
To prepare for this metamorphosis, PMOs must begin to develop a roadmap for handling the challenges associated with these emerging initiatives, which includes developing an understanding of the significance of big data to the enterprise.
They must also recognise the skill sets required to manage and support these initiatives, and must implement training and development plans to help bridge the skills gap to ensure project success. PMOs must identify the common reasons for failure for these projects and proactively devise mitigation plans, whilst also revising methodologies and frameworks to support these complex initiatives.
Are PMOs ready to support this emerging need? According to Patti Gilchrist, of project management information Web site the following basic questions should be considered in order to gauge readiness:
* Do you know what big data is, and more importantly its significance to your organisation?
* Do you know the associated technologies related to big data? Do you know the value proposition of these technologies and when to employ them?
* Are you aware of the required resource types and skill sets required to support these initiatives? Are you proactively addressing the skills gap?
* Can you identify the common reasons for failure for these projects?
* Do you know which methodologies would be most suited for delivering successful big data projects?
* Have you begun developing a strategic plan to enable successful management of these types of projects?
* Have you revised your standard operating procedures and methodologies to support this emerging technology trend?
* Have you already delivered big data projects? And if so, were they successful?
To meet the challenges of a dynamic business environment, PMOs must evolve as technologies evolve and adapt to offer more than one methodology. The “one size fits all” approach will no longer suffice.
As big data projects kick off, they will need to tailor delivery to meet the needs of these complex initiatives. Most likely, project practitioners will be required to move to a more business-driven and iterative delivery technique such as agile, which is more aptly suited than waterfall to deal with dynamic, complex and ambiguous projects.
Some will argue that big data projects are just projects like any other, and the big data aspect is just a technicality.
Yes, it is fascinating, and yes, the processes and requirements will need to take this into consideration. But as for methodology, should we not already have multiple methodologies for different scales and complexities of projects? Is that not something that a successful PMO already recognises and provides for?
Who knows if PMOs will ever be considered “sexy” or what the future will bring. However, what we do know is that the big data future offers possibilities and an opportunity for PMOs to liberate themselves of their current less positive image as process police, and redefine themselves as innovative and customer-service driven leaders – ones focused on producing business outcomes and delivering value to the enterprise.