CIOs Can Lead Innovation & Drive Business Value With Analytics

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The Center recently hosted a virtual roundtable on an important topic to CIOs, Partnering to Drive Change through Analytics, where we explored how organizations are applying analytics best practices today, the business value that the best performing organizations are experiencing. In preparing for the session, I developed some observations on the topic that I think provide a useful perspective for CIOs as you all consider taking action on getting value from leveraging analytics and creating business value in your own enterprise.

Not a new topic

In researching the literature prior to the session to provide some historical perspective on how far back this topic goes, I discovered that people have been talking about what we describe as this massive explosion of data, initially called information overload, for longer than many of us have been in this industry. From what I could ascertain, the earliest known attribution of the term “information overload” was credited to an IBM advertising supplement in the New York Times on April 30, 1961. So obviously this is not a new topic.

So what’s different now: more data than ever before That being said, we are clearly at a new frontier of information overload and explosion of data, which is astronomically more challenging, but at the same time very exciting from the point of view of being able to impact the way we do business.

To put this into a context for today, I like to look at the retail industry, which is at the forefront of collecting massive amounts of data, and more importantly putting that data to use in changing the way they go to market, manage the customer experience, streamline the supply chain, and create the next generation customer. Walmart is often cited as a great example as a retailer leveraging data and analytics across all of these elements. A fact that I found particularly noteworthy - as of about nine months ago, Walmart was processing over a million customer transactions per hour, feeding databases that were estimated in excess of two and a half petabytes (roughly the equivalent of 167 times all of the books in the Library of Congress.)

Walmart has unprecedented insight into what their customers are doing, what they want, and how to respond across their 8,500 stores worldwide. At the same time, they need to find a way to translate that insight into actions that drive customer benefit and stakeholder value.

How should CIOs respond to this incredible opportunity?

“Revolutions in science have often been preceded by revolutions in measurement,” said Sinan Aral, a business professor at New York University, in a 2010 article in the Economist. He went on to say that just as the microscope transformed biology by exposing germs, and the electron microscope changed physics, the proliferation of data is turning the social sciences upside down. I see that as representative of the conversation we as CIOs should be having now – how to apply this insight, these data, to become the microscope for how businesses can learn and advance ourselves and our industries. There are a few takeaways for me from Katharyn White’s presentation that I would encourage CIOs to consider in looking to manage these conversations.

• It’s a journey – the research presented reflects the evolutionary process of adopting, implementing, and embedding the value of analytics in the enterprise. And as Katharyn emphasized, the process of gaining buy-in and creating change is actually a core part of the implementation. In leading change management efforts myself over the years, I see that implementing analytics is the type of program that requires deep change across the enterprise, and core shifts in the way people make decisions, operate and go to market. CIOs can leverage their expertise in change management, as well as their enterprise-wide view of data and information, to make the journey more successful.

• Learn from others – the research also showed that companies can be successful getting to value across many industries; success in analytics is not industry dependent, or even geography dependent. There are companies of all types applying best practices and getting exciting results – whether it is in growing sales, increasing efficiencies, or improving individual customer interactions. Katharyn shared the view that success with analytics benefits greatly from a cross-industry perspective, and from seeking out examples from many other environments as a way to leapfrog in your own industry. This echoes my own experience – and that of the Center’s commitment to peer-sharing. CIOs should seek to systematically leverage learning from others to innovate in an emerging area like analytics.

• Leverage your C-suite relationships – by definition, getting value from analytics, especially as companies migrate from aspirational to experienced or experienced to transformed (as described in the research), clearly requires data or information to be collected across functional silos and/or across multiple business units. Whether or not the data collection and management moves to the point of being centralized within the enterprise, there needs to be an integrated and shared view of who is doing what, and how they data can be cleaned, verified and leveraged across the silos. This is an important opportunity for CIOs to leverage your hard-won C-suite relationships, and reach out to connect on an integrated view of the possibilities to move to value in your enterprise. One partnership in particular that Katharyn mentioned – the one with the Chief Marketing Officer – struck me as interesting for CIOs to consider. Analytics is at the forefront of where marketing and technology are coming together, and the partnership represents an emerging opportunity for CIOs to truly push the needle on analytics and how the company goes to market. What are you doing in your organization to move the needle on the path value through analytics? What lessons can you share with others?

IT Governance-Don't forget the bosses

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On October 19th the Center for CIO Leadership had a very interesting panel discussion entitled “Next Generation IT Governance.” I was interested in the discussion since I teach this topic each semester in an IT Management MBA class at a local university. I believe that the speakers did an excellent job discussing this subject which is an essential element of any successful IT organization. However, I did not think that it raised many ideas that I haven’t already heard, discussed, and debated.

Professor Peppard shared many of my own thoughts about how a governance system in IT should work. He feels it must involve top management, it must be integrated across the entire organization to maximize strategic impact and it must take its place within the organization right next to the financial, structural, performance and regulatory governance protocols that exist, both formally or informally, in all companies. Having structured IT governance is the only way to achieve alignment to corporate strategy – which is still an illusive goal in many IT shops.

Len Peters of Yale also presented a typical governance model involving all aspects of a complex university IT environment. However, I disagreed with his opinion about the role of senior management in the process. I feel that it is imperative to involve the corporation’s top officers in the IT governance process to guarantee that the limited IT resource be used in a manner that is most in-synch with the corporation’s objectives. I sometimes feel that some IT leaders do not believe that the top echelon should be involved with major IT decisions. I feel that is one of their most important responsibilities since the IT agenda is a most critical component to the success of the organization.

I would recommend that all CIO members listen to the audio replay of the session and make your own decision. The creation of an effective IT governance environment is one of the most important responsibilities of the CIO. Every IT organization has a governance approach. The only question is whether of not it is managed by the CIO. Do you believe all top officers should be involved in IT governance or should only IT leaders be involved in decision-making?