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Technology

New technologies and adoption trends that influence IT strategy, and the issues and opportunities they represent.

Big Data in the Real World

Last year was, so the pundits declare, the year of Big Data. Certainly, the hype reached fever pitch and continues today. Big Data stories and forecasts appear almost daily across the pages of every publication or web site that relates to technology or business. Inevitably, following the hype are the naysayers, ”More data just means more noise,” and the vendors who can’t pass up a good buzzword so they label everything as having some kind of Big Data relevance.

Moreover, every discussion of Big Data includes the total of every element of digital data generated and stored throughout the world. For example, the oft-quoted stat from IBM, "Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data,” or perhaps a more easily digested, but no less gobsmacking stat, “90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years."

While the world-view numbers are an indicator of the overall trend in digital data, they’re not very meaningful in terms of the significance of Big Data to a particular enterprise. So to gain a better understanding of what's happening in the real world, The IT Media Group hosted a roundtable discussion focused on Big Data on February 28th, 2013. Sponsored by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), the session brought together a dozen CIOs from prominent companies from around the GTA.

There’s no doubt that every enterprise is generating and storing data faster and in greater quantities than ever before. Many retail stores, loyalty programs and credit card companies for years have had massive amounts of data about the spending habits of millions of customers. But lots of data doesn’t necessarily qualify as ‘Big’; other conditions such as diversity of sources and structure, and speed of creation characterize Big Data, and often it’s from external sources.

All of the organizations represented at the Roundtable are experiencing rapid data volume growth that presents challenges ranging from data storage and management to recovery of specific content. Some of the largest enterprises have projects that store, manage and explore very large data sets, and are in the early stages of what is generally understood as ‘Big Data’ initiatives involving diverse and unstructured data sources. Most delegates nevertheless were sufficiently versed in Big Data technologies to identify specific opportunities within their own companies.

The participating sponsor, Hitachi Data Systems, confirmed the view that Big Data is in its very early stages for most companies, but that many customers recognize the need to look to the future and prepare the information architecture and technology infrastructure before the demand overwhelms them. The CIOs who already have experience with Big Data initiatives echoed this advice.

Two distinct visions emerged of how Big Data can create value for companies. Organizations in which IT is viewed primarily as a cost centre see Big Data as a means to more effectively react to the demands of business and improve process efficiencies. Companies in which the CIO enjoys a close collaborative relationship with corporate leadership are more likely to view Big Data as a means to gain new insights in order to fuel innovation and gain competitive advantage.

As the custodian of corporate data, IT has an intimate knowledge of what data exists where, and can play a pivotal role as ‘data advocate’, eliminating duplication of effort across the broader organization and identifying opportunities to exploit data sources for business value. For Big Data initiatives as well as traditional business intelligence applications, many companies have adopted a cross-functional team approach in which IT is embedded within line of business units, often reporting to line of business management rather than within the IT department itself. Another approach involves the creation of a centre of excellence comprising experts that know the data and understand the data sources. They provide data governance and deal with integrity and integration issues.

Architectures to support Big Data can be complex and difficult to install. There's a danger that by the time you have it right and delivering value it's almost time to replace it or face significant maintenance costs. So there's a strong argument to be made for taking advantage of cloud resources. One of the problems with that approach is that the business may not want to allow that data or intellectual property outside the walls of the data centre. The architecture piece is critical, then, and you need to keep it as simple as possible and standardize on something that can scale and install quickly.

As data volume and diversity increases, the opportunity to find new and valuable insights to fuel innovation and create business value increases. But dangers also lurk in the accumulating volumes of corporate information, including formal and informal e-mail, IM and voice messages. In legal cases the courts are more inclined to take the view that in a modern company, what you can store, you can produce for discovery. Lawyers are increasingly asking for the production of any electronic information that could be construed as having relevance to the case.

It's critical, then, that whatever information the company chooses to store can be accessed and recovered in a timely manner. It also means that data management policies must include clear rules for retention and destruction of information, and those rules must be followed. If you cannot produce requested information, you must be able to demonstrate that it has been destroyed in accordance with corporate policy or face penalties.

Last year may have been the year of Big Data hype, but it’s clear that in the real world of business and IT, the next couple of years will see Big Data take concrete form as a competitive asset.

The IT Media Group Masters Series roundtables bring together IT executives from across industries to leverage the experience of peers who have addressed similar challenges. For a modest investment of time participants gain insights that help them avoid potential difficulties, discover opportunities and make decisions with greater confidence.

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Past Attendees


ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director

CAPREIT - CIO

Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Deloitte - Director, Cyber Risk

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS

ENMAX - VP, IT & PMO

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP

Flightnetwork.com - CIO

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi - CTO, Americas

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT

LCBO - Director, Applications Systems

LCBO - SVP & CIO

Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lightstream Resources - Head, Information Services

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions

Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - SVP IT

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT

ROM - CIO

Russel Metals - VP,IS

Scotiabank - Head, Systems Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Director, Architecture & Engineering

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - VP, CISO

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

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