Last week, I had the good fortune of hosting breakfasts for CIOs and senior IT executives in both Toronto and New York. The CIOs represented a cross section of industries and government agencies. They also represented medium-sized enterprises up to the Fortune 500. Joining me on this trip was the CIO from Microstrategy, Peng Xiao, who also shares the passion for leveraging information to establish a sustainable competitive advantage within an organization.
Our objective was to facilitate good collaborative discussions and build strong peer relationships with our respective customers. From our experience, a lot of vendors are “coin operated” and want to talk to you when you need to buy. Philosophically, we are working to establish partnerships through mutual shared experiences.
We began our discussions with the topic of vendor lock-in and whether or not this was a concern among the attendees. In the last 5 years, IT organizations have seen the IT landscape shifting dramatically as evidenced by Oracle’s 56 acquisitions, Microsoft’s 79, IBM’s 60, EMC’s 40 and HP’s 34. There was general consensus that:
- These acquisitions eviscerate negotiating power
- They impede the ability to innovate as these vendors are less focused
- There is still an issue of poorly integrated software within many of these vendors
To our surprise the audience steered the conversations away from vendor lock-in (a clear concern), to the strategic use of information within their enterprise. You might expect this conversation from data warehouse practitioners, but these were senior IT executives.
Hot topics of conversation included:
- Data Governance – there was a strong need and desire to implement data governance within these organizations. There were varying degrees of maturity where some were in the process of implementing data governance and there were the others asking how to get started.
- Data Stewardship – There was no debate that the business function owns the data, not IT. There was also a general consensus that data must be profiled, dashboards created and clear quality metrics established. The group went further to say that the accountability must be incorporated into people’s job descriptions.
- Data Quality – Five years ago, data quality was considered a functional problem. Now, it’s elevated to an enterprise problem and has the attention of the CIO. This is due to several reasons, including the fact that the broader deployments of BI have exposed the data issues within organizations.
Why has data become more important today, than in the past? This is what we heard…
- Data volumes are growing. One attendee cited 27x growth in data volumes over the past few years. It was imperative to get this growth under control.
- Attendees felt they have addressed many of the infrastructure and application issues plaguing their organization. They were working on processes and the lack of integrated data and issues of data quality were inhibiting their ability to improve processes further.
- There was a general need to be better both operationally and predictably. Many of these businesses looked at themselves as data companies and they need to harness information to beat the competition.
Now there’s the good news and the bad news. First, the bad news…almost every business has challenges with their data. The good news…we are now getting the sponsorship to address them.