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Impact of big data on CIOs

Impact of big data on CIOs

John Brand of Forrester outlines strategies to tackle big data 'holistically'.

Big data will disrupt the data management and analytics landscape as well as impact the CIO role. “CIOs need to think about big data holistically,” says John Brand vice president, principal analyst for CIO research, at Forrester.

“It is disruptive, not incremental,” says Brand in his keynote at the Business Insights Summit in Auckland. “There is a point where you have to do something radically different. It is not marketing bullshit, some organisations are doing it well.”

He says big data is measured by volume (amount of data in bytes), velocity (the rate it is collected) and variety (different formats).

Big data, he says, is data coming in quickly and with variety. “Can you store all of that data, do you need to store all of that data?”

As volume of data increases, it is not economical to process data in an existing warehouse. As you increase velocity, you need real time processing, says Brand.

He says a Forrester survey earlier this year found the top reasons organisations are interested in big data were data volume (75 percent of respondents), analysis driven requirements (58 percent), data diversity (53 percent), velocity of change and scope, unpredictability of data (38 percent) and cost of big data being less expensive than traditional business intelligence and data warehouse solutions (30 percent).

Brand asks whether organisations are able to cope with the changing data management requirements.

He says big data is about changing the processes and not just a system that produces “faster or prettier” reports.

At the same time, he says CIOs embarking on big data initiatives should keep in mind business leaders must own and lead the project. They should also consider different parts of the organisation will have different interests in big data.

Big data initiatives with little or no business involvement will fail, he says.

“Do not turn big data into a solution looking for a problem,” he adds. CIOs must also not try to deliver big data solutions, but put the power in the hands of tech savvy business people.

The traditional approach is the enterprise data warehouse as a single repository and source of truth.

But the demand today is to support users in a mobile environment such as field sales and those using devices as monitoring and measuring tools, such as health sector workers.

For example, the proliferation of mobile devices means not just new devices but new capabilities that include location and geospatial data that were not captured before.

“Are you able to use that data more effectively if it is sitting on the database or are you just reporting on it? You have to think whether your current strategy is going to support the future needs of the business,” says Brand.

Big data and enterprise warehousing do not compete, explains Brand. The traditional method is centred on producing evidence for decision making and arriving at a single version of the truth. Big data is about indicators and identifying trends.

“The same things we have been doing for years that we are familiar with no longer seem to work for us,” he says. “We have to make the radical change, make the leap of faith to implement new data systems using new techniques and technology.”

Big data technology and techniques make capturing value from data at extreme scale economical. “It is the value of data we are looking to magnify,” he says.

Brand says this goes beyond “data mining”, which he says has the same success as physical mining. “If you are lucky you might find that strike,” he says. “Businesses are not interested in mining, they want certainty.”

He says that organisations “want to create gold from data they already have”.

What he finds interesting is that there is a lot more external than internal pressures affecting data management in organisations. In a recent Forrester survey in the Asia Pacific, he cites that increasing expectations from customers, at 67 percent of respondents, emerged as the topmost business concern for the first time.

In this environment, CIOs are “under threat” because they are seen as managing internal technology requirements.

“It is not saying all CIOs are internally focused but the more you are focused on internal delivery of technology, the more likely you are to encounter some challenges in your career.”

The most effective CIOs are leading the thinking around what information can do for the organisation, he says. The responsibility for operations and reliability of service delivery fall into another level in the IT organisation, a CTO who report to the CIO, or another direct report.

“They are driving thought leadership around value of business data, and spending far less time talking about whether the email service is up and running.”

Related article:

Beyond the data warehouse

John Brand of Forrester highlights need to rethink the strategy for business intelligence.

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