CIOs are ill-prepared for data-driven business

The “I” in CIO has less to do with information than with technology

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The “I” in CIO has less to do with information than with technology.

Gartner’s information and data management event in London focused on how to derive value from information. But the CIO is unlikely to get the call when the business wants to create and foster information assets.

“In successful organisations, someone owns the vision, execution and strategy to make it successful, such as the CFO role, or a VP of operations,” said Gartner analyst Ted Friedman. “Even office rubbish is managed better than information. Organisations need a chief data officer to maximise information assets. There are 300 CDOs today, and this number will double.”

Gartner research director Dan Sommer warned that business intelligence is still focused on running analytics on internal data, while users want greater access to external data streams – especially given the fact that 50% of business data now lives in the cloud. “Many new data sources are emerging that are external to the organisation,” said Sommer.

Debra Logan, vice-president and Gartner fellow, said IT leaders should shift from a technology focus to asking what business outcome needs to be achieved.

Logan said that in her experience of speaking to Gartner clients, “over 50% of clients have no answer, 30% have the wrong answer and only 5% have the right answer”.

Rather than discuss IT systems, Logan urged IT decision-makers to focus on business outcomes. “Every information conversation is a business conversation,” she said.

Logan urged IT heads to change the way they measure success. “CIOs care about projects that are delivered on time and on budget,” she added. “But for an information professional, what matters is business outcomes.”

Such outcomes include those to measure process improvement, or finding new revenue and fostering growth.

Democratising information

Among the themes coming out of the Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit was the fact that IT can no longer keep pace with the demands of the business. Logan said: “We need to get everyone in the organisation to understand information.”

Transforming business to a point where information is collected and harnessed will involve organisations changing the way data is governed, she said. “Monolithic governance does not work. Governance should be democratic, but many organisations are far from democratic.”

Logan urged IT heads to consider a bimodal approach to information governance, which would support the democratisation of data, separating information that must be retained centrally from a compliance perspective from data that can be distributed to the business. “Most of what you do is not controlled by a regulator. Agile information governance requires a decentralised organisation,” she said.

According to Logan, regulated information and vital records represent only 5% of a company’s data. “The majority of information in an organisation should be governed in an agile way,” she said. In fact, Logan recommended that 90% of governance should be devolved to the business user.

Bupa's IT director for data strategies and applied technologies, Tony Cassin-Scott, admitted that when he joined the healthcare organisation, he started out looking down the wrong end of the proverbial telescope. “I wasn't sure of the problem I needed to solve,” he said. 

But he has worked to build a pragmatic, value-based data strategy, which he said is a force underpinning the company’s 2020 vision, tying his data strategy to the business strategy. “I wanted to think of the culture and vision of the organisation by creating an insight-driven world where information is democratised,” said Cassin-Scott.

Cassin-Scott said he had looked at taking operational data to generate value to the business. For instance, he looked at the 300 care homes that Bupa runs in the UK and found that they buy a large quantity of low-value goods, which is an opportunity to apply economies of scale.

To encourage skills and best practice, Bupa has built a community of 300 data analysts to share ideas, and this is augmented by webinars for business users. “We educate the masses to know what questions they can ask,” said Cassin-Scott. “There is no shortage of technology. What we lack is imagination.”

Cassin-Scott, who also runs data discovery sessions, added: “Bring out your data and we'll find value. Without exception, every session generates value, from £500,000 to £14m.”

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