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Dark Truths from Deep Inside the Data Universe By @ABridgwater | @BigDataExpo #BigData

Arguably one of our biggest mistakes in terms of our use of technology is the rush to data

The technology industry is fond of rounding out the year with predictions for the twelve months ahead. It's almost as if our arbitrary notion of calendar-driven time should be guaranteed to herald the arrival of the next paradigm shift or platform change.

Of course we know that in reality, change and development happens continuously and this is especially so in IT. Rather than a ‘what to expect in the year ahead' discussion, let's instead look at some of the darker truths that currently stem from the data universe we are all currently trying to circumnavigate.

Arguably one of our biggest mistakes in terms of our use of technology is the rush to data. Data data data, we have to have it. To be clearer, now that we know something about what so-called ‘Big Data' is supposed to be... we seem to be happiest when building new data stores and identifying new and ever-more-massive data flows.

The (big) Big Data imperative
But data on its own isn't worth much, i.e., information itself does not represent intelligence. Raw data has to be transformed into contextually specific insight that can be applied to identifiable and quantifiable business strategies - or it remains just data.

It's not easy. Just because we can identify one dark truth of data, it does not necessarily follow that we can shed light on the situation. Transforming raw data into contextualized intelligence means we need a) the right platforms and software plus b) the right staff with the right skills. It's a fine balance and we only get what we need if all the dynamics coalesce and the planets align at the right point.

Without giving you nightmares... even if we do get all the above right, we then need to make sure that we do so inside an environment that can be said to be locked down, secure, disaster recovery compliant and workable within specified rules of data governance that may exist.

Dark data truths, darker shadows
Looking still deeper then... when the C-suite executive turns C-suite detective and starts looking for dark truths in the data stack, running into shadow IT is perhaps inevitable. Shadow IT - as the name implies - refers to technology that exists and operates in an organization's grey area, i.e., where these operational elements have not been approved by the business.

Generally thought of as shadow ‘applications,' i.e., chunks of software in exclusivity, today we should also consider shadow IT to include software-defined networking controls, cloud services, unmanaged Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and any ‘other' element of the total IT stack that has not been strategically and officially put in place.

As Ed Macnair, CEO at CensorNet has explained, shadow technology elements have not been vetted, are not managed, controlled or supported by the organization's IT team so are often not in line with the organization's requirements for control, documentation, security, reliability etc.

The shadow-innovation trade off
The difficulty here comes when we appreciate that shadow IT is not always consider evil. CensorNet's Macnair explains that it is considered by many as an important source for innovation as users will use free or paid applications and tools to develop prototypes for enhanced or new IT solutions.

"There is a case here for innovation versus risk. By allowing shadow IT, new solutions that will benefit the wider business can be found. However, shadow IT is a security nightmare as those members of staff who are likely to use their own solutions will inherently be from the generation of risk takers and will therefore be less concerned by the need for all encompassing security measures," writes Macnair.

Out of the darkness
As negative and downright dark as this discussion may indeed be, it is only by acknowledging the darker truths of data that we can see a clear way forward. When we have identified the virtual cracks in the sidewalk, then we know where we can walk safely. The proliferation of Big Data is certainly not simplifying our total information universe so it's important to identify black holes now and agree on a course for the future.

This post is sponsored by KPMG LLP and The CIO Agenda.

KPMG LLP is a Delaware limited liability partnership and is the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name, logo and "cutting through complexity" are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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