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How Gulf Air adopted do-it-yourself Big Data

Ben Rossi | July 9, 2013
There is no doubt that Big Data is the hottest IT topic of 2013. Everybody is talking about it as the next big technology to revolutionise the enterprise.

The "off-and-on exercise", as Dr Haji calls it, took around a year between him appointing the team and the solution going live.

"They've never been entirely dedicated to the job and still aren't now," he says. "When you do a trial-and-error it takes lots of times, and you can't afford to put five or six people out of their jobs.

"It was a challenge taken up by the team and myself to just go after it, keep it quiet, and see what we come up with. If it was successful we would announce it and tell everybody, and if it wasn't we wouldn't have told anyone," he laughs.

The biggest challenge Dr Haji and his team faced was getting the system to compile all the different Arabic slangs and dialects that make up the language in order to understand the comments and translate them into English.

Having overcome that, the project, which required an extremely small investment, has been a great success.

However, the work is not done. The IT department has done the hard work, but for real business gain to come out of it, other departments must use the information to generate value.

"The implementation has already been a success," Dr Haji says. "The data we got is very useful and valuable. Now, I'll have to push others to do their job to make sure the success comes to the company. Whether they need other tools to go integrate with this to make sure we increase our sales or reputation, or not, that's a different story."

Having taken the route he did, Dr Haji is now firm in his opinion that it is not viable at this stage to be investing in the expensive Big Data solutions seen on the market.

"The investment they are asking the customers to make towards what they are going to get out of it is too much," he says. "I think even Big Data at its highest capabilities that vendors are offering does the same thing. It doesn't do the work for you, it brings you the data.

"If we draw value from 10 percent of the comments, we've already made a return. Sometimes, through difficult times you learn innovations. When you don't have that much money to spend, there is a pressure on you. To deliver, you come up with creativities. That's where we ended up being."

He is also keen to emphasise that Big Data will have different meaning to each organisation, and each must be clear of the expected benefits of such a project.

"Despite the term, Big Data does not necessarily have to be big in size or volume; it is how to use the outcome of Big Data that is of big importance," he says.


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