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Digital Disruptors and the Future of Consulting

In my role as leader of the Analytics Practice for Cisco® Consulting Services, I often meet with clients who remind me of how the nature of consulting is changing. Traditionally, a consultant’s value and relevance to the customer has been derived from his or her business background and knowledge of specific industries or areas of expertise. The consultant comes in and takes a look at the client’s critical business issues, then makes top-down recommendations based on his or her specialized business experience.

This traditional model is being challenged by what I call “digital disruptors”—consultants whose credibility comes not just from their past experience, but from their ability to extract value and insight based on data that is gathered at the operational base of the organization: the network. This bottom-up approach is turning the consulting industry on its head—driven by data gathered on the network and turned into business insights by analytics.

Consider, for example, a major enterprise that has made a large investment in infrastructure for video collaboration. The company’s leaders want to see what kind of value they are getting back from their investment in order to evaluate further investment in collaboration. Cisco Consulting can help this customer not only because of our industry expertise, or even because of our knowledge of video collaboration technology—but because we can take an analytics-based, digital-disruption approach to the customer’s challenges. The key is our ability to tap into the video infrastructure itself, combine network and other types of data, and give the client a view of how the infrastructure is being utilized.

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A Room with a View (of Crucial Big Data Insights)

What’s the problem with Big Data? You guessed right — it’s BIG.

Big Data empowers organizations to discern patterns that were once invisible, leading to breakthrough ideas and transformed business performance. But there is simply so much of it, and from such myriad sources — customers, competitors, mobile, social, web, transactional, operational, internal, external, structured, and unstructured — that, for many organizations, Big Data is overwhelming. The torrents of data will only increase as the Internet of Everything spreads its ever-expanding wave of connectivity, from 10 billion connected things today to 50 billion in 2020.

So, how can organizations learn to use all of that data?

The key lies not in simply having access to enormous data streams. Information must be filtered for crucial, actionable insights, and presented to the right people in a visualized, comprehensible form. Only then will Big Data transform business strategies and decisions. In effect, Big Data must be made small.

However, as McKinsey & Co. reported, many organizations don’t have enough data scientists, much less ones who understand the business well enough to draw conclusions. The trick is to get the scientists together with the experts who understand the business levers driving the organization. Put them in a room with the right tools, and watch the synergy fly.

But what sort of a room?

big_data_room_10_new

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Your Data, Yourself — in the Marketplace of Me

On a typical day, we leave a vast trail of data in our wake. Our browsing histories, online preferences, shopping habits, work decisions, social interactions—all are rendered in binary code, prompting a complex interaction of requests, responses, affirmations, and denials.

And that’s just from our laptops and smartphones.

What about when the Internet of Everything — with its explosion in connectivity from 10 billion “things” today to 50 billion in 2020 — truly shifts into overdrive? At that point, our clothing, our houses, our cars, our lawns, and our refrigerators may be generating ever-larger torrents of data — all about us.

This upsurge in personal Big Data has big implications. Indeed, each person’s emerging digital persona will go a long way toward defining their place in the world.  Furthermore, all of that data already has great intrinsic value to Internet giants, retailers, financial services companies, and many others. If we manage it right — in what I see as a burgeoning Marketplace of Me — some of that value may come right back to us.

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The Internet of Everything: Creating Better Experiences in Unimaginable Ways

Futurists have long envisioned a world where fabulous innovations transform our lives in mind-boggling ways. And while some of their ideas may remain far-fetched, the most exciting thing about their future is that so much of it is already here, today (flying cars notwithstanding).

Indeed, we are living in an age of unprecedented technological transformation, one that stands to eclipse even the first Internet boom. This next wave of change is being driven by a massive upsurge in connectivity, from 10 billion connected things today to 50 billion in 2020. The world may seem connected. But only 1 percent of the objects around you are endowed with smart connectivity. That is changing fast. Your car, your refrigerator, your parking space, the bridge you drive over, the shelves at the local retailer, and the supply chain that feeds them — all of these “dark assets” are being “lit up” with smart connectivity, altering our lives in profound ways.

Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). We define IoE as the intelligent connection of people, process, data, and things. And, of course, the “people” element is paramount, since the whole point of technology is to create a better life experience for everyone.

At Cisco, we estimate the Value at Stake from this transformation to be $14.4 trillion for the private sector alone over the next 10 years, which represents an opportunity to increase global aggregate corporate profits by about 21 percent.

Cisco’s projections are based on deep research and analysis into potential use cases. But we are not the only ones sensing the potential impact of this game-changing, global transformation.

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Big Business from Big Data

“Dad, how many mobile phones were sold last year in the whole world?”

“Is this a trick question? Well, there are about 7 billion human beings on earth. Assuming every…”

“No, no—give me a number.”

“Well, I am not 100 percent sure. How many do you think were sold?”

“1.75 billion.”

“How do you know?”

“Dad—it’s on the Internet!”

My 10-year-old daughter left the room, triumphantly. I looked after her—admittedly feeling a little bit jealous. I wanted to be 10 years old again, too. I’d like to grow up with access to any information, available at any time, at the touch of a button. And this is only the beginning. Soon, tailored information will be provided to us proactively, before we even know what to ask for.

It’s easy to forget how incredibly rapid technological development has been. The true uptake of the Internet happened only about 15 years ago. Think about what would happen if your family had to spend an entire week without being connected to the Internet and the constant global interactions to which we have grown accustomed. The next ”big thing” is always around the corner, waiting to disrupt everything we take for granted today.

So what will be the next big thing in technology? This is a topic of endless debate on the Internet, at dinners with friends, and in the trade press, with the discussion often descending deep into the weeds of architectures, capabilities, protocols, and standards. However, for a business executive, the only thing that really matters is the business impact. The only relevant business question is ultimately, “How can I improve my business performance enabled by technology?”

Big Business from Big Data - FINAL

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