Five principles to guide your big data analytics projects

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Big data plays a critical role in our work at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Understanding, analyzing, and visualizing data is core to the problems we solve.

When embarking on a big data project, I’ve found it helpful to have a set of principles that everyone agrees to ahead of time to help save time on planning. Here are five guidelines that I believe make it easier to plan for big data projects.

1) Think data first. When we take on new projects, it’s always all about the data. Think about how you’re going to access the data you need to take on your project.

2) Think search second. Determine how you’re going to be searching the data you need. Is it structured or unstructured? Is the data already contained within your organization, or are you going to have to gather it from outside?

3) Default to openness. Try not to lock up your data with access policies. Risk on the side of openness within your company. You’re not taking on much risk by keeping it open within your own organization.

4) Consider crowdsourcing. Could your customers help you build what you’re working on? Don’t limit your plans to just your employees.

5) Start with yes. If someone has an idea to present, they’ve probably thought it through better than the person whose approval they're seeking. We all tend to ask a lot of questions. Instead of grilling someone’s idea too hard, think about what the risk is if you’re wrong. If the risk is low, then say yes.

If you let these principles guide you on your big data journey, you’re more likely to gain momentum, passion and speed. And in the end, if you haven’t spent too much time and money, you’ll be able to redirect the project if you need to.

Read this free Harvard Business Review article,  "Making advanced analytics work for you."

Tom Soderstrom serves as Chief Technology Officer and Innovation Officer in the Office of the CIO at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Los Angeles, CA and a member of the Enterprisers Editorial Board. JPL is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system and conducts major programs in space-based Earth sciences. JPL currently has several dozen aircraft and instruments conducting active missions in and outside of our solar system.

Tom serves as the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, in the Office of the CIO at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where his mission is to identify and infuse new IT technologies into JPL's environment.He has led remote teams and large scale IT best practices development and change efforts in both small startup and large commercial companies, in international venues, and in the US Governm