Embracing Big Data

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Alexa Magdalenski in Capital Data Summit | Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts

The inaugural 2017 Capital Data Summit is less than two weeks away! Susan Burke, vice president, single family data delivery services at Freddie Mac, will be participating on the Role of the CDO panel at the Summit. In her guest blog post, Burke shares thoughts and questions leaders should consider when aligning big data activities with their organization’s business goals. 


Freddie-Mac-Web-LogoLike many enterprises, we at Freddie Mac are in the process of determining what big data means to us. This past year, we started our journey to expand from the traditional rationalized data stores to the world of unstructured data and new technologies. One step on that path was considering a Hadoop environment. Would it bring value? What business problems would it solve?

The first lesson we learned is one that we tend to see repeated in the IT-business world. In our case, we raced to develop a new technology. Why wouldn’t we, when there were “obvious” value propositions we knew we could deliver? It quickly became apparent that, while our initial proof-of-concept provided insight into what needed to change from a back-end engineering perspective, we had not aligned with the business. Without a strong business champion, technology for the sake of technology efforts is doomed.

Fortunately, a strong, respected business leader stepped up to garner support and help IT define the business-use cases that would deliver value to the organization. Off we went.

Now that we’ve implemented Hadoop, what does it mean? How do we support it? Where do the data scientists fit into this picture? The technology in the data landscape is changing fast — and it is evolving in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. That means IT organizations are changing. The skill sets needed are different. The delivery methods are different. The way we integrate into our existing environments is different. We need to ask, “What hypothesis do I want to explore?” instead of “What are the requirements?” And all change is hard.

We decided the most useful model for Freddie Mac is one that combines business and IT resources in one team, so we created our Big Data Center of Excellence (CoE). This CoE brings together dedicated resources to support the development of use cases, deliver data not currently available on the platform and measure value. The data scientists remain in the business areas and can concentrate on asking new questions and executing analytics and visualizations.

The rapidly-evolving world of big data is exciting, and both IT and the business are in it together. We will continue to partner closely with our business leaders to identify the most impactful structure to help us evolve to a data lake structure.

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