Practical Advice to Obtain a Big Data MBA

By Bill Schmarzo October 6, 2013

With Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business finally published, I wanted to share my original impetus for the book.  I wrote this book to be a study guide – a hands-on, pragmatic handbook – for business folks to help them identify where and how they could leverage big data for business value.   My working title for the book was the Big Data MBA.

I designed the book to be studied, not just read.  I can’t think of a worse fate for this book than to end up in pristine condition sitting on someone’s bookcase.  I wrote this book to be used, to have dog-eared pages with notes in the margins and page after page of yellow highlighted text.   The book is loaded with practical advice for both IT and business stakeholders.  It is designed to help business users who have a solid, detailed, intimate grasp of the organization’s value creation processes, but need to know enough about technology to understand where and how to use it.  It’s designed for the MBA in all of us who is trying to decide where and how to leverage data – massive volumes of disparate, structured and unstructured, real-time data – coupled with advanced data management and analytic capabilities, to uncover new insights about their customers, products, campaigns, and operations in order to optimize their key business processes and uncover new monetization opportunities.

I must also admit that I was on a mission.  I’ve been in the high-technology industry now for almost three decades.  Three decades!  And our industry likes to focus on the technology discussion – the shiny new toy – as the cure all to all of our business needs.  But that’s never true.  Never.

Today more than ever, data management and advanced analytic technologies are available to the business users to help them uncover new business insights that can help organizations of all sizes be more effective, build better products, and provide better, more relevant services to their customers.

Simple, But Not Easy

The concept behind the Big Data MBA is very simple:  use business opportunities that are associated with improving your value creation processes, optimizing key business processes and uncovering new monetization opportunities to drive all of your data, data management, and analytics-related technology decisions.

While the concept is simple, the work associated with putting together and executing a plan to get value out of big data requires focus and commitment.  It requires understanding your targeted business initiative, how that initiative makes the organization money (or adds value, if you’re working for a non-profit), and how the business stakeholders will use the resulting analytic insights in their day-to-day jobs.  You will not only have to do the traditional requirements gathering processes, but you’ll also want to shadow your targeted users and create detailed personas as to how they do their daily jobs (what decisions they make and what questions they are trying to answer in support of those decisions).  You’re going to create and fine-tune mockups in order to better understand exactly how the analytics need to be implemented in a way that will make the business users most effective.  And a great side benefit is that in the process, the business and IT folks will have created a relationship of working hand-in-hand to leverage big data to power big business.

Readers Guide

I put together the below chart to guide folks into what chapters might be the most relevant based upon their areas of interest.  I think several of the chapters are valuable no matter what your area of responsibility.  However, there are some chapters which are likely only interesting to those folks who really need to get into the details of where and how to leverage big data to improve their organization’s value creation processes, and the associated technologies.


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Call to Action

So, here are my recommendations as to how to get the most value from this book:

  • Get the hardcopy version.  I know that ebooks are very popular (and much easier to carry around), but get a hardcopy version so that you can more easily make notes and collect other materials with the book.
  • Download and practice with the worksheets (go to the “Downloads” tab on the Wiley book website).  Walk through the exercises in the book, and then create some of your own.  Maybe the exercises you create are associated with your company, or maybe they are just fun ways to try to figure out how to help your favorite sports team win more consistently (or at all, if you’re a Cubs fan) with big data.  When done with the practice worksheets, fold them up and put them in the book.
  • Print some of my new blogs, or even the old blogs that might have more details than what is provided in the book.  For example, take my recent blog on the Prioritization Matrix worksheets – print it, fold it up, and stick it in the back of the book.  You will want to use the material in future engagements.

The book is designed for students of data, data management, and advanced analytics.  I certainly hope that the book provides practical advice and guidance regarding your big data journey, and puts you on the road to a Big Data MBA.  Let me know what you think!

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