I had a very interesting conversation with my seat mate in the flight to SFO early today . He works as a manager at an airline, and grew up the ranks . Currently he is exploring ways of “learning faster” given his team was having a hard time with baggage handling and they want to fix it like yesterday .
He had a big data book in his hand – which is why I started the conversation with him , and I am glad I did .
Here is his situation in a nut shell. He can get pretty much any report he wants on any data that affects his work . It is not real time , and that is fine by him . He needs printed reports that his team can carry around in their pockets and check periodically . Essentially real time is not an issue and neither is mobility .
However , when a problem occurs – he has to trust his memory to remember when it happened the last time and what he did to solve it . None of his reports give that information to him .
In his words – this makes him go in circles , while his information systems go in a straight line . He wants a solution that will go in circles with him in perfect sync . Why circles ? Because he says almost every problem he encounters is a repeated problem that has been solved in good and bad ways before . He doesn’t have the time to sit down and document solutions in a word document given he has a very busy job . His question is “why can’t the system figure it out that it is a repeated problem and tell me everything that has been done before and what worked and what did not ? “.
I asked him how he ended up with the big data book . He said his wife is a college librarian , and she told him that “big data” is the fancy technology that solves all kinds of complex problems and found him this book . He also said it is the first time he is reading a book other than an airline manual in more than a decade .
Eye opening conversation for me – to say the least . I wonder how many such employees and managers exist in the world today , where the IT systems cannot help them the way they want to solve problems in real life . This is not just a big data problem – the whole IT industry needs a reality check .
At the very least – it is a good proof point that yesterday’s solutions won’t solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems . Time for us to stop thinking in abstract ways with lot of jargon thrown in – and just go help solve real problems .