Dean Barber

Saving Consultants; All the Words Ever Spoken

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 at 6:40 am

Consider for a moment that if you do hire a consultant, you may, in fact, be preventing a very big mess from happening.

You see, consultants are chockfull of ideas, some of which are actually worthy of being considered.  But through a freak of nature and not through any fault of their own, consultants are compelled to share their ideas, valid or not, or they will literally pop.

I kid you not, this is an absolutely true and documented fact as presented in Fred’s Medical Journal. Thankfully, conferences were invented so as to prevent for this threat of exploding consultants. My advice:  Don’t let consultants explode. Invite them to speak at your events.

Thankfully, I have been out of danger this year. Just when I started to feel that bloating sensation, some group has invited me to speak to their ranks. And I have obliged by gushing forth all sorts of ideas and data, relieving the building pressure from within.

At these conferences, I have talked about a variety of subjects, including the need for communities to invest in certified sites (a service which I most conveniently offer) and the importance of establishing real and robust business retention and expansion programs.  I have prattled on with seemingly authority on the current and future state of the economy, manufacturing, workforce and re-shoring.

Offering Escapist Fare

People like hearing from all-knowing, sage-like consultants, if only for a little while, as we offer escapist fare, much like the movies.  Little do they know that they are actually saving our lives by being that willing and accepting audience.  I can only thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Last week, I was back in Florida, for the third time this year, gushing away and thereby not exploding on anyone. The good people of Business Facilities magazine held what they called a LiveXchange conference for economic developers and corporate end users. My PowerPoint presentation was on “Choosing a Location for a Manufacturing Facility.”

As there were Fortune 500 execs attending, my subheading should have read “Why Companies Should Hire Me,” but it’s in poor taste to be too blatant about these things.

Our Thoughts with Our Friends

My magazine hosts were quite gracious and nice, but I couldn’t help but notice that they were not all there. They were obviously preoccupied with events unfolding in their home state of New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy was causing so much destruction, taking and uprooting lives. All of them wanted to be home with their families during the storm and I could only sympathize.

My heart and prayers to Ted Coene and his talented staff at Group C Media Inc., the economic developers from the Garden State who were present, and all the people of New Jersey and New York during this difficult recovery period.

Sometimes, and this is not something that I am particularly proud to admit, but sometimes, I will actually get my ideas for this blog from another gushing consultant. Such was the case this past week, when I heard my friend, Anatalio Ubalde, speak.

His presentation at LiveXchange – something to do with the meaning of life and why we are here – touched on a subject that I will actually try to be serious about – big data or rather “Big Data.” Prior to listening to Anatalio, I knew more about Big Daddy Kane than I did about big data, but all that has now changed since I am a consultant with a blog.

It has been said that “all words ever spoken by human beings” could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data. What is an exabyte, you ask?

And Now You Know

An exabyte is a unit of information or computer storage equal to one quintillion bytes. The unit symbol for the exabyte is EB. The unit prefix exa indicates the sixth power of 1000:

1 EB = 1000000000000000000B = 1018 bytes = 1000000000gigabytes = 1000000terabytes = 1000petabytes

I know you have been sitting up at night wondering about that. Well, now you know. Leave it to say, an exabyte is big, real big.

According to the good folks at IBM, and they should know, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day — so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years. Think about that for a moment, 90 percent of all data created in the last two years.

It comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. Big data is not just big, it’s a growing monster.

Who or What Can You Trust?

Ironically, many business leaders don’t trust the information they use to make decisions. And if you cannot trust the data, how can you act? Establishing trust will forever be the big challenge for big data as the mountain continues to grow.

But acting upon dig data can give a business person an edge by answering questions that were previously considered beyond our reach. Now, we’re in the early stages of figuring out how to do it, and that is kind of exciting. At least my friend, Anatalio, seemed excited, so I figured that I best get on the bandwagon.

In short, big data has all the promise of becoming a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus. It can make information more usable at higher frequency. And it can and is making a huge difference in site selection and economic development.

“One of the big points that I tried to make in my presentations is that economic development has a history and perception as being a profession in which decisions are made in cigar-smoke-filled back room deals based on people’s gut feelings and relationships,” Ubalde said.

“This type of decision-making is a competitive disadvantage in the era of big data. Now there is a revenge of the economic development nerds in which their ability to understand opportunity through data will enable them to out-compete those that make decisions from their gut, because over-and-over common sense, traditional wisdom, and gut feelings are wrong.”

Managers now want and need instant analysis so they can use the insights to make decisions when they can still influence business outcomes. Big data will also allow for narrower segmentation of customers, permitting more tailored products and services. This can prove to be a huge breakthrough for manufacturing in this country.

Now, seeing all the potentials, this is where you are supposed to start getting excited.

If US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditures by about 8 percent, according to research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office.

“In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information,” according to the MGI and McKinsey report.

Nature Prevails

Google was playing the part of big daddy data before, during and after Hurricane Sandy. It launched an interactive crisis map, displaying useful information such as the locations of relief centers and the projected path of the storm. A whole host of smaller firms also took the opportunity to showcase their prediction models.

Still, nature somehow always seems to get the upper hand. As Hurricane Sandy made landfall, the surge of water that descended on New York flooded data centers that were built in flood zones. So much for the precise science of site selection, huh?

I hope that I wouldn’t do something quite that dumb. You have to believe that it’s probably not the best idea to locate all your data at one or two locations susceptible to the same disaster. In short, redundancy in different places has its place. But most small companies do not back up their virtual infrastructure in multiple places, probably due to cost.

Last month, IBM and the University of Oxford released a joint study in which 1,061 companies were surveyed worldwide. The study found that 28 percent were piloting or implementing big data activities. IBM identified four phases of big data adoption. They are:

  • Educate. Focus on data collection and market observations.
  • Explore. Develop a strategy based on business needs and challenges
  • Engage. Pilot big data initiatives to validate value and requirements.
  • Execute. Two or more big data initiatives have been deployed with advanced analytics applied.

IBM found that only 6 percent of companies are now at the execute stage so we are largely in the early stages of how to figure out how all this works.

Information Remains King

We have always had data but we have never before been faced with such an explosion of data with all the social networks and mobile devices out there. Whoever can best harness this beast, will no doubt have a competitive edge in the marketplace because information has been and always will be king.

My advice to you: Figure out how to crown yourself.

And also vote. Tuesday we pick a president. Voting is a rite and a right of citizenship. Be a good citizen. I’ll see you down the road.

Dean Barber is the principal of Barber Business Advisors, LLC., a site selection and economic development consulting firm based in Plano, Texas. He can be reached at 972-767-9518 or at Please visit our website at

  1. I like your distinction between data and information. We always need to remember that the purpose of using data is to help minimize the risk of making a wrong decision. But, we should also avoid the trap of “analysis paralysis”. Failure to make a decision because you continue to analyze a seemingly endless amount of data can actually be riskier than simply making a decision based on gut feel. The purposeful gathering and translation of data into information to help you make a decision is a process that a consultant can be helpful in thinking through. Since you tend to be bashful when it comes to self-promotion, my 2 cents for the reader is that Dean Barber is about as good a guide to help you through the wilderness called Big Data as you are likely to find. Plus he is fun to have along on the trail.

  2. Ed, I believe we are thinking along the same line. I like to use data and then look at things with some comm,on sense. I agree there is a difference between data and information. Information can be anything someone wants you to use to help their on agenda. Data doesn’t. Either can be distorted by savy people though. Facts don’t lie, People might though.Nothing pays like honesty. Dean is a very good writer that I can understand.

  3. For those that would like to see the presentation I gave that inspired Dean to write this article, you can watch it at . It’s titled “5 Economic Development Trends You Can’t Ignore”.

    • Anatalio, Heck, it’s just a blog. It’s no definitive article and never has been designed as such. But you are right about you being the genesis for this last one being written. So thank you.

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