"We look through our products to see what people are using. We're promoting features in products in ways we haven't before, and we're taking features out of products based on usage," he says, adding that this provides value related to upselling, cross-selling, and point-of-sale decision-making.
Librarians, data scientists, and master data management
Before you can obtain these insights, though, you have to roll up your sleeves and finally implement those massive master data management projects that have been sitting on the back burning, waiting for a strong business case.
Big data could just be it. Unfortunately, there's a dual challenge here. "Good librarianism," to use Hauck's lingo, and big data share a lack of critical talent.
"The biggest challenge for me is getting people who are competent in using this stuff at scale," Hauck says. "Everyone can build a 100-by-100 cube with this stuff. The guys that have done a billion-table join? Not as many. You can try to rent the technical skills, but, unless they understand the context of your business, it just takes a couple of years to build up the chops to use this stuff."
Fortunately, the barrier to entry is low from a technical and cost standpoint, and companies like Cloudera are bringing big data technologies in reach for the smallest of businesses. However, you still need the in-house expertise to make sense of the all the numbers. You can put all these numbers from all over the place into a blender and get an answer, but it will be meaningless if you don't understand the question you're trying to answer.
"Maybe downstream you need some analytics, [but] at the front it's really hard to get all your data out of your SAP system [and] into a Hive," Hauck says. "That doesn't come for free, and that doesn't come without expertise."
Big data's customer service imperative
Such problems aside, ignore big data at your peril, Hauck cautions. The companies that get it and understand that it's about managing expectations as much as information will benefit.
Think about your own interactions with the companies you work with. If it takes days (instead of seconds) to update your records, or if the customer service representative can't see a list of service calls and outcomes on her display and react accordingly, you are going to feel like the company is inept, incompetent or, worst of all, doesn't care about you as a customer.
Big data will put the expectation of instantaneous feedback and reaction into hyperdrive. Those that embrace this change, and the velocity of it, will be the winners. "Amazon is the exception to the rule today," Hauck says, but we're not far from companies being described as "slow" and "dumb" if they aren't monitoring customers in real time.
"A few years from now, someone's going to say 'You didn't change your application based on what I did a minute ago? Don't you care about me?'" he suggests. "It's going to separate the 'haves' and the 'have-nots,' much like ... brick-and-mortar vs. Internet shops. Big data is going to create that kind of divide."
It appears that most enterprises planning to avoid this fate. Prior to his conversation with CIO.com, Hauck walked out of a meeting of Fortune 500 CIOs. "It's on everyone's mind," he says. "Part of the struggle in today's business economic environment is [wondering if]can people squirrel away enough resources to take a swing at it?"
Time will tell, of course. You can always swing and miss, as some surely will, just as some unexpected winners will come out of nowhere to claim victory and play spoiler.
Either way, big data is here to stay. It's more than just a buzzword or a hype-cycle, Hauck concludes-it's going to separate the customer-centric companies from those that simply act as commodity sellers. "It's about what you do with [the data], how are you going to do real-time offering, how are you going to do processing, how you stand against your competition. People who can leverage that ... are going to win."
Allen Bernard is a Columbus, Ohio.-based technology journalist. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter @allen_bernard1. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.
Read more about data management in CIO's Data Management Drilldown.