Just about all the CIOs I speak with are at an inflection point in their careers. Some are just biding time before retirement, but many are emerging CIOs who are driven more by a business imperative than a technological one. Today, market and cultural pressures are forcing CIOs to move quickly and be flexible. In many ways, this is antithetical to the posture of IT, which can often be described as slow and methodical. This posture however is no longer sustainable in the era of the six forces of business technology innovation that Ventana Research tracks in our BTI benchmark research.
Well-read publications such as the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times and Wired Magazine are espousing the virtues of big data and analytics. CEOs are listening and demanding that their organizations be adaptive and flexible – and most have iPads. This fact should not be underestimated, because everything you do on an iPad is easy. To bring social, local and mobile intelligence together, organizations face the challenge of slow descriptive analytics and what my colleague Mark Smith rightly calls pathetic dashboard environments. Our next-generation business intelligence benchmark research shows organizations rate the importance of business intelligence as very high, but satisfaction levels are low and have a declining trend line. At the same time, usability is growing to be the top buying criteria for business intelligence by an astounding margin over functionality (64% vs. 49%). The driver of these numbers is that expectations are being set at the consumer level by apps such as Google and Yelp!, and business intelligence applications are not living up to these expectations.
This is a difficult situation for CIOs because IT has heavy investments in business intelligence tools and in the SQL skills that often underlie support for them. At the same time, they need to think about what the business needs as much as what they currently have in their environment.
In the 1990s, CIOs faced a similar situation with ERP systems and the OLAP tools that were being deployed on the client side of organizations’ technology architectures. In that case, CIOs often needed to think from the perspective of the CFO and form a close partnership with the operational finance team. This was a natural partnership because both areas are number-driven and tools-oriented. In today’s environment, however, the CIO must partner with the CMO and iPad-carrying executives to drive competitive advantage through analytics and big data. The rapid revolution of big data technologies and what I have described as the four pillars of big data analytics are being adopted by business in many cases outside the scope of the CIO. Much to the chagrin of IT, those executives and marketers do not want spreadsheets and “pathetic” dashboards. They want visual discovery, they want search, they want prescriptive analytics, and they want results.
Finally, CIOs must grapple with the fact that the business must be involved in building out IT since he can no longer have tight centralized control of all technology. Organizations have many different applications sprouting up, from visual discovery tools and business analytics that are also becoming part of the growing use of cloud computing. CIOs cannot even get a baseline on the company’s current technology environment because they often have no idea what’s happening outside of the data center. CIOs need to start learning from business users about the new technologies they’re using and collaborate with them on how they can put the business tools together with what is running in the data center.
CIOs have been metaphorically barricaded in the data center, and the data center been a cost center, not a profit center, and certainly not an investment center. CIOs must now reach out to business users to show value. In order to fulfill on the value promise, they will help business users make sure they can deliver on the table stakes: trusted data, secure data and governance around the data. This requires an organizational cadence that can result only from a marriage of the business side with the IT side.