Top Executives Discusses Big Data and Supply Chain Analytics at ICCG Top CXO Influencers Conference

It’s fitting that the Pacific shore was the setting for the latest session in the ongoing series of conferences of CXOs sponsored the Industry Council for Competitiveness and Globalization (ICCG), given that the two emerging trends on everyone’s minds- Big Data and supply chain analytics- are poised to have huge ramifications. This event brought CXOs from different industries together to identify the common challenges they face within Big Data and supply chain analytics.

ICCG is a 501C(6) non-profit organization that focuses on creating and retaining local jobs that can compete in a global economy. Both supply chain analytics and big data were singled out during past ICCG forums as two trends that will continue to challenge multiple industries.

“Our goal is to create a better local business ecosystem for southern California,” said ICCG co-founder and board member Ajay Sarkar. “With the shortage of talents in big data and supply chain analytics — combined with the high demand for these disciplines — we hope to make Southern California a hub in terms of related talents pools, shared knowledge base, & a cluster around Big data and supply-chain analytics.”

During two breakout discussions following the speakers at the conference, the CXOs discussed the primary challenges within their industries. There was general consensus that aggregating, analyzing and maintaining Big Data poses significant privacy, security, data quality and data governance issues.

“Big Data – whether from the Human Genome Project or policies incentivized by the ACA — is rapidly changing our business model as healthcare providers,” said Ken Lawonn, CIO of Sharp Healthcare. “Right now, data governance in healthcare is a siloed process, with hospitals analyzing data separately. It’s time we step back and take an enterprise-wide view of Big Data to create value for that data across an organization.”

In a talk titled “Big Data in the Human Age,” Scott Dettman, a Sr. Data Scientist at Manpower described the efforts of the human resource consulting firm to become more agile in an environment awash in data.

“At Manpower we send 4.2 million people into the workforce every week — that’s the equivalent of the population of Boston every day,” he noted. “The rapid pace of change we’re seeing is fundamentally human-driven, with challenges stemming from finding, recruiting and retaining talent, as well as leadership development. The make-up of the workforce will drive what we do moving forward, and the best way to accommodate this is by leverage Big Data.”

An example at Manpower, said Dettman, is to optimize job fit using custom algorithms “the way does with partners.”

At Experian, where featured speaker Shanji Xiong, SVP & Global Chief Scientist of the company’s DataLabs, more than 5 million internet users are tracked at any given time, providing them with “the most comprehensive data in the industry.”

The DataLabs, said Xiong, were created to help clients solve business challenges made all the more complicated by a multitude of emerging data assets (in particular mobile devices and social media) as well as issues related to legally securing data.

One oft-touted solution to managing Big Data is to harness the power of supercomputing, but Will Dailey, Principal Instructor for Hadoop Supercomputing and Head of Schoolhouse Athena Tech Academy, cautioned that supercomputing is actually “a threat” to everyone present at the conference — primarily because there are not enough people to do the work.

There are so few people able to crunch Big Data, Dailey warned, that their salaries are becoming “outrageous, dangerous and wrong.” He cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor that predict the nation will need 1.5 million more data technicians in the next five years.

Why the lack of trained professionals? Dailey said the causes are multifaceted.

“Universities can’t keep up with the rate of change, business training budgets have been cut, apprenticeships have been eliminated, there’s a lack of political awareness, and among the countries that provide import labor, only India is providing resources at the scale we need.

“The only solution is to invest in our future by creating a multi-year career path. We need to recruit talent like we do NFL superstars,” he added, only half-jokingly.

In terms of optimizing supply chain, some of the main challenges cited were distribution of supply chain, competition between legacy software and a proliferation of new software tools and the importance of making supply chain more flexible.

“A majority of costs for most manufacturing companies are in supply chain,” noted Robert Van Heyningen, Senior VP of Operations and Strategy at Akyumen Techex and Co-Chair of ICCG’s Manufacturing/Supply Chain Group. “When the supply chain slows, we need to determine which is more cost-efficient: adding people or leveraging technology. Finding the business use case sometimes proves to be the most difficult part. It’s all about singling out the problem areas and using the data you have to educate CXOs that it’s important to invest in this area.”

Steve Gerbrecht. VP of Software Product Marketing for Schneider Electric, noted that the aging workforce in manufacturing presents an added challenge, as does the tendency for manufacturing to lag the IT industries by 3-4 years.

But Gerbrecht pointed out a number of ways manufacturing has embraced emerging technologies. “We’re beginning to use gaming technologies that can create simulations that train people how to operate a plant, even how to open valves.”

Also attending from Schneider Electric was Dr. Mark Zecca, Sr. Executive Director of IT cautioned that one of the most important things to remember when analyzing both Big Data and supply chain is to refrain from trying to ‘plan’ those analytics because it requires making assumptions about that data.

“Allow your data to teach you what you don’t know,” he said. “Momentum is not progress. You can be doing things but not progressing. And organizational change isn’t just about changing products — it’s about creating a new environment where 1 + 1 = 3.”

ICCG will be compiling the information garnered from the breakout sessions to share with the participants in order to further the goal of enhancing the shared knowledge base of expertise within our local business ecosystem.

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This event is sponsored by RoundWorld Solutions RWS provides expertise in complete governance around IT, Data, BI, supply chain, and software development.

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