FROM BIG DATA TO BIG INDUSTRIES
BIG Industries has had one aim since its inception: to use data to future-proof companies. The rapid evolution of both the technology and the market in which our customers operate has led to our impressive growth. In this article, we explain our approach and how we’re guided by our corporate values in everything we do.
BIG Industries was founded in 2013 at the peak of the Big Data hype. Everyone was talking about Big Data, but few knew how to get started. BIG Industries understood both the technology and the impact this new way of working would have.
So we got to work. Our first step was formulating a pitch to help companies understand how Big Data could be of help. We always started with the same question: Looking at the future, do you know who your competitors will be?
Many organisations were finding this question increasingly difficult to answer. Banks soon realised, for example, that they weren’t just competing with financial institutions anymore, but also with technology companies. And shifts like this seemed to be happening more and more in every sector.
Up to speed with the technological evolution
Established companies still working with more traditional systems simply couldn’t compete against new, digital competitors without also using new technology. BIG Industries therefore wanted to arm Belgian companies adopting Big Data to help them compete with companies from Silicon Valley.
Our first partnership was with Cloudera, the makers of Apache Hadoop – a platform that played a big part in making Big Data so popular worldwide, and continues to be relevant, which is why we continue supporting our Cloudera customers today.
A lot has changed since 2013, of course. The cloud has been accepted almost ubiquitously, and companies are increasingly keen to make more use of it. BIG Industries has entered into new partnerships with Microsoft Azure, AWS and Confluent, and we’re keeping a close eye on the Google Cloud platform too.
Big Data supports innovation
BIG Industries has experienced the rapid rise of Big Data and cloud technology from the front row, and always worked on interesting and exciting projects since the beginning.
The transformations that companies go through can sometimes be the difference between success and failure – a stark contrast that current economic trends are only serving to reinforce.
One example could be a traditional oil giant reinventing itself as an energy supplier – a company that needs to invest in a new infrastructure of charging stations. These charging stations collect data every single time they’re used, which is extremely useful for commercial purposes. The data collected is also useful for operational purposes – the company can use it to do business with other energy suppliers, predicting or responding to the level of demand, and expanding the network and adding more infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Our consultants and engineers can come across huge technological challenges in projects like this, but enjoy seeing impressive results when new systems are rolled out.
Socially relevant projects
Transformation is often associated with what’s happening in society. Projects that lead to sustainable outcomes help our team realise that IT is more than just computer screens, and that we can have a really significant impact on society.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we worked on a system to help the Flemish Government process vast amounts of data from contact tracing and infection clusters. This obviously involves a high degree of responsibility, but the sense of satisfaction you get from helping so many people in such a direct way is even greater.
Our customers who have a new business model or technological transformation in mind often still work with on-premises data warehouses and legacy systems – which are no longer future-proof. BIG Industries therefore guides them towards a data lake in the cloud, where they can handle all new use cases.
What does a project like this look like?
- We start by discussing with the customer the general terms of the use cases they have in mind. We weigh up different types of data and consider which are best suited to their plans. Then we create a design for the future platform’s architecture.
- BIG Industries gets to work. The project’s DevOps engineer configures the platform, and implements and automates the agreed architecture.
- To build data pipelines from the source systems to the data lake, we need to know what the source systems are and where the data comes from – we work with both batch and streaming data. Then we set up all these pipelines towards the data lake.
- In the next phase, front-end and BI developers use the data product created by the data engineer in the previous phase to make visualisations and/or data scientists run their AI or ML models.
- We also build back-end data lakes for mobile apps. One example of this is an app that we helped developing for a major manufacturer of mobility solutions. Users receive notifications in the app e.g. about the oil that needs to be refreshed in their vehicle, when their tyre pressure is too low, and more. The information for these notifications comes from a data lake where the data from the vehicles is constantly being collected.
BIG Industries: more than consulting
BIG Industries wants to be more for its customers than just a consultancy firm, and more for our team members than just a job. We’ve managed to achieve this by fine-tuning our values over the years and incorporating them in everything we do.
Our company values are:
Share your wisdom
We have lots of in-house expertise among our engineers and consultants. And sharing all this knowledge with each other is essential – it ensures our customers can be confident that everyone at BIG Industries is up to speed with the latest technologies and fully understands what the project entails. So we always have more people on hand to help our customers when needed.
Learning from each other doesn’t just strengthen the company – it also benefits everyone’s individual profile. That’s why experience doesn’t carry too much weight in our recruitment process. We believe that anyone who thinks big will be able to keep up. And setting time aside for colleagues to share knowledge is also important for developing good collaborative and soft skills.
Dare to grow
At BIG Industries, we’re not afraid to get stuck into the very latest technological developments. Our consultants often encounter new technology for the first time in their projects, which can certainly make things exciting, but that’s a good thing to – everything evolving so quickly means you need to keep your finger on the pulse.
In terms of soft skills, we’re always encouraging our team members to push their boundaries. Who says IT professionals don’t have excellent presentation skills, aren’t fluent in interviews, or can’t collaborate in international teams?
Feed the family feel
We stop work early on Friday afternoon once a month to talk together about any technical challenges and innovations that we’ve encountered in our projects. We want to offer our consultants this structured support so they know they’re not alone – they’re any equally important part of our team and can always count on our backing.
Personalised Training plan
Everyone is given a personalised three-year development plan when they start work at BIG Industries. This also supports our other company values in a very concrete way.
Where are you now and where do you want to be in three years? We put this plan into action by drawing up a specific roadmap for you – for example with technical training, certificates you want to obtain, soft skills you want to improve, and more. Technology is constantly evolving, so we are too.
BIG Industries Academy
Four times a year, we leave the business environment alone for a while to broaden our horizons – organising teambuilding exercises for all our employees, and kicking things off with a group session. Consultants present their projects to the rest of the team and describe the issues they’re aiming to resolve. They explain the technical background and provide their vision for the project, giving other team members and consultants the opportunity to help think about a solution for the customer. This always provides new perspectives and ideas, which can sometimes also be useful for other projects as well.
The other aspect of our teambuilding exercises of course revolves around bringing people together and having fun. We always aim to find an activity to reinforce our sense of togetherness that everyone in the team will enjoy. As IT professionals, we’re often extremely focused, so we always choose outdoor activities to make us more aware of our environment and get some fresh air. Last time, for example, we helped on a river clean in Ostend, visited a waste recycling power plant and planted trees as part of a guided forest trail. Everyone went home fully recharged and inspired!
BIG Industries today
BIG Industries was founded at the peak of the Big Data hype, and it’s clear that we’ve never stood still. We evolve together with technology, so our customers can always benefit from the best-informed and very latest options.
This approach is reflected in our company values. Sharing knowledge, daring to grow and working together as a team make our company stronger. At the same time, we always aim to support each of our employees as individuals. So we can all learn from each other and continue our personal development.
This mindset extends all the way down to an individual level. Technical professionals are often seen as specialists, but in our view you can be a technical expert while also focusing on your personal interests, other talents and soft skills. We actively encourage to develop these soft skills further by helping each other in the workplace, and with versatile training opportunities and challenging projects.
Evolving means growing, also in numbers – and that’s why we’re looking for new people to join our team. We have lots of interesting projects ahead of us, and we’re always looking forward to the next challenge. Want to join and strengthen our team?
Matthias is founder of Big Industries and a Big Data Evangelist. He has a strong track record in the IT-Services and Software Industry, working across many verticals. He is highly skilled at developing account relationships by bringing innovative solutions that exceeds customer expectations. In his role as Entrepreneur he is building partnerships with Big Data Vendors and introduces their technology where they bring most value.