There are many words and phrases floating in the technosphere about Big Data. You may hear data-driven decision-making, analytics, Big Data, IoT, IoE, IoL, Hadoop, Hortonworks, Splunk, HPE Vertica, EMC Isilon, N4mative. Some of these are trendy phrases that don’t really help anyone be strategic about their data, and others are companies who have the goal of helping customers leverage data in a way that’s meaningful to their business.

At CDW, we want to clarify the analytics space and help you understand what is needed, on a practical level, to start the Big Data/analytics/data-driven decision-making conversation. We will start that here in this blog, but the conversation can be continued with one of our data center or IoT specialists.

Conversation Starter

The starting place for any data conversation is always questions.

  • What does the company want to get out of their information?
  • What information is available to the company?
  • Who owns that information?
  • What key objectives can we address with better use of data? recently cited a Forrester study revealing that over half of CIOs are uncomfortable with the Big Data conversation. Their discomfort stems from not trusting the information. So a few more questions:

  • How do we know our data is accurate?
  • Are there compliances we need to meet to insure our data will give us answers to our questions? (It’s important not to choose data sets because they will prove a hypothesis, but instead to choose information from which you can gain actionable insight.)
  • What format does our data take once it’s been sorted?
    • Are we using pivot tables? Do we have a dashboard?

At CDW, we start the conversation with an overview of emerging technologies, what we are seeing in your industry and how we would help. This is a nonpaid engagement that lets your company understand what other people are doing in the market.


The second engagement is a paid Digitalization Workshop. This can last from one day to 12 weeks and includes stakeholders at all levels of the company. This is, where we get into what data you have, what your objectives are for the following years, and how we can help you accomplish those objectives with data-driven decision-making. CDW offers these workshops and we partner with other companies to host them as well, all dependent on what’s best for you and your company.

Sketching Out the Future

Finally, we work with your company and chosen partners to create a bill of materials and outline for what is needed to start your organization down the path to your goals. I’ve outlined an example customer scenario below.


  • What challenges are you trying to solve?
  • What are your goals and objectives?
  • What data do you have accessible to you?

Example Scenario

Let’s consider a hypothetical company, Kaboom!, which manufactures hardware for hospitals. They have a state-of-the-art data center, but their products keep overheating as they start the molding process. They want to increase customer satisfaction, decrease supply chain delays, and basically optimize their processes. The first step is a discovery call with one of CDW’s solution architects.

We understand you have objectives to meet and we want to help you meet those goals. Most organizations have goals around retaining customers, attracting new customers, retention of employees, increasing customer satisfaction – they all come down to making or saving money. And we understand that analytics are only a good bet if they make more money for your company than they cost.

In this instance, we’ll start with some questions for KaBoom!


  • What is causing the delays?
  • Where are the delays in the supply chain?
  • What processes need to be streamlined?
  • How are customers impacted by delays (in dollars/hours)?
  • What departments have data that can help improve processes and bottom line?
  • What is the cost of the delays?

Analytics engagements always start with the use case. What use cases can streamline processes and increase profitability? Let’s pretend KaBoom! is able to assign dollar figures to help them decide which use case will help them the most and most quickly.

Analysis of Use Cases 

What is causing the delays?

  • Equipment failure at time of production ($50,000)
  • Equipment failure on offtime ($25 plus two hours labor, so $250)

 Where are the delays in the supply chain?

  • Equipment failure
  • Workers off due to injuries ($2,000/month)
  • Workers need to wait while new part is replaced ($250 plus $2,000/hour for workers to wait)

What processes need to be streamlined?

  • Break/fix, shipment, customer satisfaction

How are customers impacted by delays (in dollars/hours)

  • Delay of one day, cost $10,000 to customer (average)
  • Social media damage ($50,000)

What departments have data that can help improve processes and bottom line?

  • Operations, IT, Legal, Compliance

In reviewing KaBoom!, we can see that problems in their supply chain have created customer satisfaction challenges, cost them and their customers money, and have hurt their brand. What are some ways we can address these challenges and help them address the most important (expensive issues)?

By decreasing downtime for broken parts, we can decrease customer satisfaction issues and help increase the bottom line. KaBoom! has decided that the supply chain is the simplest place to fix the most damage. CDW has worked with them over the course of their workshop and has identified next steps.\

Solution Summary/CDW Recommendation

 KaBoom! will leverage sensors throughout their warehouse to monitor the temperature and to leverage machine data from all their devices. This will help them fix problems before they become a supply chain problem ($225 for parts and labor, compared to $110,000 for customer satisfaction, equipment downtime and social media damage). KaBoom! will publicize their new technology and how they are leveraging IoT in order to become a more technology-savvy business. The organization will be able to leverage sensors to monitor lights and heat to reduce costs as well, saving additional, unplanned dollars that can be repurposed to fund the project.


  • Sensors
  • Installation/implementation
  • Wi-Fi throughout organization
  • Analytics platform/repository for data
  • Training/staff or staff augmentation

A Data-Driven Future

Perhaps this scenario resonates with you. Maybe you would just like to understand where your customers go when they come in your store so that you can optimize traffic patterns for the staff. Or perhaps you’re looking to augment employees with kiosks. Data can help you make the best determination for your company.

By 2020, IoT will propel annual data growth to 44 zettabytes. It blows my mind that zettabytes are an actual thing.  It’s key to note that the companies drowning in data will be hard pressed to find a competitive advantage, but the companies that leverage existing and new data – use it to help them find a handhold in this new world – those are the companies that will thrive.

Contact your CDW account manager and schedule a conversation on reducing complexity in your data analytics space today.