Hugh Nolan, Singlepoint’s Lead Solution Architect, spoke to The Sunday Business Post about Big Data.

Read the transcript of this interview below.

Big data: it’s an intimidating subject, doubly so when it comes with artificial intelligence in tow, but does it have to be so confusing? If big data means anything it means adding to the sum of knowledge in an organisation, and, Jason Walsh, from The Sunday Business Post, asks, isn’t that something every business would want to do?

Getting real
The chatter around big data brings challenges itself, not least of which is the dynamite combination of the hype train and jargon. Half-digested ideas are not going to help businesses make serious use of the information they record. The answer is a strict focus on the business case. “Our ideal client is one who has a good idea of what they’re getting into. The worst is when someone has read up on big data and thinks ‘we need to get into that’,” said Hugh Nolan, lead solution architect at Singlepoint. Singlepoint approaches big data by taking a consultative approach with its clients, he added.
“The most important thing to understand about any customer coming in the door is to understand their business: to took at the existing KPIs [key performance indicators] and look at how they are reflecting the real world — or not — and how they might be improved.” For Nolan, it is essential to make sense of what the goal is and, from there, how data can get you there. One aspect of this is looking again at KPIs to see if they are really performing their tasks. “Then you can look at what kind of data you have or can gather,” he said.

“The KPI having aged would be a major one [issue]. Another would be [when] a business puts in an IT system to deal with a specific issue but, over time, operators have come up with workarounds. Humans adapt. The big thing about big data and machine learning is that it’s about getting machines to adapt, including to how humans have adapted.”

Big data, simple idea
Big data, simple idea as it says Hugh Nolan, of Singlepoint, also said that problems with terminology can create confusion, specifically the buzz around artificial intelligence. What is AI anyway? Extracting new KPIs from sales records or contracts is important, but does it qualify as intelligence? “I think about AI as getting a machine to interpret the real world. On the other side you have ML, or machine learning, which is getting a machine to iterate over datasets.” This, he said, is where the strategic value can be produced. “A huge amount of time, effort and investment is being put into algorithms that can pull out the salient legal points in a contract. The actual interpretation of contract law is going to become a lot simpler as there will be fewer grey areas. That already is a huge change, the work that is going on in that field.”

Small business, big data
So where does all of this data that has the power to magically transform business come from in the first place? The information is there; it just needs to be made understandable. “If the data is already being collected somewhere you can evaluate it and see if it can be brought together in a meaningful way. If not, it’s a case of ‘how do we change our systems to collect it’,” said Hugh Nolan of Singlepoint.

The Sunday Business Post

“If you would like to speak with Hugh or one of his team, please contact +353 (0) 1 562 0027 or info@singlepoint.ie