FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Laguna Niguel, Calif., Dec. 11, 2014 — It’s fitting that the Pacific shore was the setting for the latest session in the ongoing series of conferences of top executives 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 and wide-sweeping 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. ICCG also regularly convenes its network of professional members to generate dialogue around innovative solutions for business issues that regularly affect CTOs, CIOs, CEOs and CFOs. Both supply chain analytics and big data — a widely used term to describe datasets so large they are difficult to process and govern — were singled out during past ICCG forums as two trends that will continue to challenge industries ranging from healthcare and life sciences to manufacturing, retail and high tech.
“Our goal is to create a better local business ecosystem for southern California, similar to what exists in Silicon Valley,” said ICCG co-founder and board member AJ Sarkar, a San Diego-based entrepreneur. “With the shortage of talents in big data and supply chain analytics — combined with the high demand across multiple industries for these disciplines — we hope to make the Southern California as a hub for these disciplines in terms of related talents pools and shared knowledge base & cluster around Bigdata and supply-chain analytics.”
During two break-out discussions following the array of speakers at the ICCG Top CXOs Influencers Conference, participants 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 Affordable Care Act — is rapidly changing our business model as healthcare providers,” said Ken Lawonn, Chief Information Officer of Sharp Healthcare and the Chair of the ICCG Big Data group. “Right now, data governance in healthcare is a siloed process, with hospitals, medical groups and other institutions 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 Senior Data Scientist at Manpower described the efforts of the multinational human resource consulting firm to become more agile in a business 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 and predictive analytics.”
An example at Manpower, said Dettman, is to optimize job fit using custom algorithms “the way match.com 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 for tough risk and marketing business challenges — challenges made all the more complicated by a multitude of emerging data assets (in particular, mobile devices, social media and consumer data) as well as issues related to legally securing data (legal regulations, he noted by way of example, are country-specific).
One oft-touted solution to managing Big Data is to harness the computational 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 talented 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, across all industries and all sections of government.
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, the military no longer creates a volume of mid-level technicians 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 entrenched 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 Vice President of Operations and Strategy at Akyumen Techex and Co-Chair of ICCG’s Manufacturing/Supply Chain Group. “When the supply chain is slowed, we need to determine which is more cost-efficient: adding more 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. Vice President 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. Computer viruses and the potential for systems to be maliciously hacked are also concerns, he said.
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.” He also noted that factories have employed interlinked systems and concepts common to the Internet of Things for years
“The convergence between information technology and operational technology used to be delineated, and now the same groups are maintaining both,” he added. “We’re closing the loop on big data, but we’re not just analyzing that data — we’re using it to make problems more visible, which helps us put in place automation to improve those problems.”
Also attending from Schneider Electric was Dr. Mark Zecca, Senior Executive Director of Information Technology 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.”
Within the breakout sessions, a common theme that the CXOs agreed was pertinent to them in regards to Big Data and supply chain analytics – regardless of industry – was Data Governance. ICCG will be compiling the information garnered from the breakout sessions to share with the participants and to take these issues forward to discuss in our next meeting in March in order to further the goal of enhancing the shared knowledge base of expertise within our local business ecosystem.
ICCG will also be looking to put together an internship program matching local students with ICCG member organizations within the Big Data and supply chain analytics arena to help create the sustainable talent pool needed to meet the demand for data technicians with the ongoing emphasis around these disciplines.
For more information on ICCG and its events, please visit our website at www.iccgusa.com
The ICCG CIO forum event is sponsored by RoundWorld Solutions (RWS) (www.roundworldsolutions.com). RWS provides expertise in IT Strategy and Architecture, Software Development, Business Intelligence, IT staffing, and IT expertise solutions. RWS prides itself in providing a governance layer that ensures operational visibility and project execution.
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