After building your organization's core Big Data expertise in-house, there are going to be scenarios where you may need to bring in an outside vendor for assistance. It's important to choose your Big Data vendors with the same care that you built your internal Big Data initiative.
While there are plenty of articles online about hiring consultants and outside vendors, bringing in outside consultants and vendors to assist with your Big Data efforts means a renewed or even new level of attention to managing the outside vendor. Your Big Data work is not to be left out of sight and out of mind with third party vendor.
The training vendor
Big Data represents perhaps one of the single greatest surges in training demand for the information technology training industry since the early days of the Internet boom. This surge makes it even more important to really scope out potential training providers.
Here are some tips for choosing a Big Data training provider:
- Business and strategic alliances with one or more Big Data technology vendors.
- Classes are taught be instructors who are Big Data practitioners so they can answer practical questions from their students.
- Classroom infrastructure that can support hands-on Big Data training.
- Ask for course syllabi upfront and make sure your Big Data team reviews them thoroughly.
You may also want to consider onsite training as an option. In that case, look for a Big Data training provider with the capability to offer customized on-site training for your organization. This might very well be the best training solution depending on the stage of your Big Data efforts. It makes it easier to ask the instructor questions. One thing not to forget when shopping for onsite training is an upfront analysis/consulting phase from the training firm to ensure that the instructor comes onsite prepared to work within your unique environment.
Outsourcing Big Data to a third-party provider
While because of the strategic value of Big Data, I advocate against outsourcing Big Data expertise in the startup phase, there are going to be time due to reasons of staffing, infrastructure, and budget that some organizations may need to outsource some activities to a Big Data Provider. Outsourcing Big Data might entail outsourcing infrastructure, programming, staffing, or even data scientists.
Here are some things to consider when outsourcing to a Big Data provider:
- A pilot project is built into the engagement: Every outsourcing relationship should be treated as a pilot project because just like Big Data, the Big Data outsourcing providers and consultants are a still a work in progress. You have to handle the dual challenges of an emerging industry, technologies, and the consultants intent of making a profit off it. A pilot project is necessary to protect your business interests. If an outsourcing provider tries to steer you to large professional services engagement right out the gate, I can guarantee you their competitor will be more than happy to speak to you about a potential working arrangements more aligned with your Big Data needs.
- Their processes must align to your business and domain experts: Another aspect to consider when outsourcing to a Big Data provider is that their project management and delivery processes offer plenty of opportunities to include your business and domain experts in the delivery cycle. While some outsourcing arrangements lend themselves to more out of sight, out of mind, hey it's their problem now approach this is not the case with Big Data. Your outsourcing provider needs to have the tools, processes, and skilled personnel in place to communicate and work directly with your internal Big Data team and in particular, those staff who are from the business side.
- Put controls in over your data: When outsourcing to a Big Data provider, you are literally giving them the keys to the store. You need to work with your internal IT security team, legal department, and executive management to explore your options for data security and put technical and legal controls in place before your data leaves the security of your enterprise.
- Explore vendor/internal Big Data team partnering options: Look for a Big Data vendor that takes a consultative or partnership approach on the team level. This helps maintain and grow your Big Data knowledge internally.
- Ensure documentation is part of the engagement: Even if a technical writer is a luxury around your parts, you want technical documentation to part of the potential Big Data provider's project deliverables. You want to make sure that any process adjustments, new processes, build outs, and implementations are documented in writing. Documentation prevents vendor lock-in, gives you an audit trail, and contributes to your organization's internal body of Big Data knowledge.
Just as Big Data is changing your business, it should change the way you choose and manage your outsourcing providers. To truly harness the full power of Big Data for your business, your organization can't leave your Big Data success in the hands of third party vendors.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.