The CIO Viewpoint Upon Big Data

Recently, I was able to ask some CIOs and other IT leaders about big data. I wanted to get a broader perspective on this topic because my previous CIO discussions had shown that CIOs are worried. CIOs had told me that they were having difficulty getting their management team exposed to big data or, even worse, felt that their CEOs and CFOs would soon be complaining that the information garnered from big data initiatives were not making them more money.

Informatica 10Unique opportunity for CIO leadership

Our first participant within this broader discussion asserted that the CIOs are uniquely positioned to understand what digital information exists in their enterprise and where it is. Given this, they said that CIOs should provide the leadership for capitalizing on big data. Adding on, our next participant stressed that we should keep in mind that “big data puddles” are generally under the control of the CIO. CIOs at minimum should represent a strong partner. Our next participant suggested that CIOs need to be poised to help their enterprises realize not only the analytics side of big data but also the insight systems needed to drive value. This IT leader suggested that CIOs need to address as well the governance risk and compliance, legal, and privacy issues with data and analytics. Picking up on data analytics, our next participant suggested that big data is nothing without analytics. This participant went on to also say that big data makes sense only when it has context. This is a big issue because big data pulls from a large number of diverse sources without always considering these issues. Taking an even stronger position, our next participant said that CIOs must articulate a vision for how big data is a strategic fit to their firm’s businesses. Being successful here, however, was seen as requiring allies among the data owners and data consumers. It was also seen as requiring that the entire enterprise to know what kind of data is needed and what it wants to do with this data.

Do you worry about a big data day of reckoning?

Our first participant for this topic said big data ROI must be shown at some point. Ideally, this participant felt that there should be a strong business case initiating the project that provides metrics. Another participant agreed by saying that management has every right to ask how big data and BI are helping the bottom line of the company– otherwise why should the business invest in the first place. This participant said, as a firm proponent of Innovation IT & not Cost Center IT, I see well run big data efforts as an innovation driver. Another participant added on saying that big data has the potential to do important things like identity consumer behaviors based or purchase patterns. When asked about big data turning into a bunch of science projects, this participant asserted science projects are critical for a true innovation based IT group. But wise choices are still required. Our next participant said this is a case for collaborations between “innovation teams” and the CIO. Big data is like the guide to the inner VC of an innovation oriented IT group and CIO.

Is big data ready for prime time? What is the biggest missing piece of maturity?

Our first participant for this topic said that big data needs systems to bring insights to market. Our next participant asserted while the tools are there, it is imperative to define a big data strategy. Adding on our next participant said that the biggest issue with big data discovery is a lack of folks who know what and how to use analytics to gain insight. Another participant retorted the rising marketability of data scientists should come as no surprise. Adding on another participant was a bit more assertive in saying big data is ready for prime-time. The issue here is: Are people ready for big data? Our next participant said the line of business can develop strategies, but the data scientists are needed to make insights happen. Following this our next participant said, “people and clear vision of are key”.

Strategies for big data

Our first participant for this topic said that if business intelligence analytics tools are only created for data scientists, the “BI revolution” will fail. We need to focus on lower level users. Our next participant said that we need to first understand what we are solving for. What are the business problems? Our next participant said we need to identify areas of opportunity where depth and complexity of data are high. He felt that the obvious wins are related to customer, marketing, or logistics. Another participant here stressed that historical data can often lead to insights with value for future behavior. The next participant then said data is the fuel of market decisions. Big data works if you understand the fuel and where you want to go. He continued by saying, “we need to understand who owns the data and how big data will add value to those teams”.. Adding on our next participant said this is a very important point! Vision provides direction and velocity provides momentum. With this, he suggested that we will find the big value opportunities in our areas of expertise (customer experience, infosecurity, etc.) and how data brings clarity to business decisions.

Two suggestions they would make for CIOs

Our first participant said CIOs should: 1) understand their business inside and out and 2) partner with their peer c-suite members…not just be of service them. Our next participant said be prepared to articulate the value of big data to your fellow executives. Responding to this, our first participant for this topic said agreed! But they then added one more thing: Articulate it in *business terms*. AKA $$$. Another participant said to this: 1) understand it; and 2) govern it. Our final participant quoted Dan Ariely of Duke University on Big Data. He said that the Ariely statement is his big data ‘go to’ statement. He added that it is scarily accurate in that most who pontificate regarding big data know least what it is.

Parting remarks

Here is the link to chat record. I think it is clear CIOs feel that they have a concrete role here. And there are concrete suggestions regarding how to be an effective leader of big data. Please let me know how helpful they are to your business.

Learn more

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Twitter: @MylesSuer