Dear Spreadsheet Jockey, Welcome to Big Data

Dear Spreadsheet Jockey,

Thanks for all the hard work over the last twenty years or so. You've been so helpful crunching numbers, reviewing reams of data and presenting results. Somehow, you've been able to pull together all different types of data sets together and analyze. I marvel at how fast you create pivot tables and work complex formulas. You've made my job easy - I ask a question, you crunch the numbers and send me a report. Buying you a faster computer every year and upgrading your software has been an easy investment.

Unfortunately, times have changed. Waiting a few days for your reports is slowing down the organization. The Sales team needs to be able to see updated results at least daily not only from the CRM, but also financial results and product performance. The financial team needs to leverage the sales pipeline to provide frequent updates to our forecasts. Customer service wants to see web analytics and sales activity when a customer calls in. You're just not keeping up with the level of requests and reporting needs.

Bob (the IT guy) has been complaining for years on the number of spreadsheets being created, so I asked him to prove it. He showed me dozens - no wait - more like hundreds of copies of our customer data some with information I've never seen. He says he thinks he can solve many of our data and reporting challenges, but it will require an investment. I asked him for a plan, and he suggested I read and learn a out how Big Data technologies are helping other companies including our competitors.

So I did some poking around. Big Data may be the next frontier in health care. Big Data is helping online travel agencies sift through hundreds of millions of records to find the best travel offers. It's helping general contractors and manufactures in the construction industry "target and win business where the opportunities are strongest". Just yesterday, President Obama announced a $200M Big Data investment to help six government agencies.

So I hope you will join this team. You know a lot about our customers and our data and have been a trusted partner for many years. But you have to do things differently. You'll have to learn some new tools, and I'm going to have different and and higher expectations on what you deliver. I expect to see self serving dashboards, daily updates to reports, and fewer duplicates in our customer database. I'm certain that after you learn the new tools, you'll come back with other recommendations and innovations.

Are you with me?

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.