When it comes to analytics projects, somebody has to be driving

When it comes to analytics projects, somebody has to be driving
Image Credit: Leslie Wong

You know, for years and years we’ve talked about trying to align business and IT and yet we never seemed to make much progress. Well I’ve got some good news for you: the arrival of analytics projects where large amounts of business data has to be crunched in order to get the answers that the business needs is driving IT and the rest of the business closer together than ever before. However, even though we now understand the importance of information technology, we still have not worked out the rules for how this is to be done.

It’s All About The Data

The reason that analytics projects bring the business and IT together has to do with the raw material that any analytics project needs: data. One of the most important issues that the CIO has to help his or her company with is to determine which direction they want to use their analytics projects to look. It can be very easy to start to look backwards as you process the data – after all that is the story that the data is telling you. However, no matter who is running the show you have to push to get the company to use the output of your analytics project to look forward because that is where the real value is.

As the CIO you are going to have to set up new processes to guide the company’s analytics projects. Let’s face it, some very sophisticated tools are going to be used to crunch all of that data. This means that the IT department is going to have to develop the expertise that will be required to operate the tools that will be used. As the results of the project start to show up, you are going to have to take charge and coordinate how the information flows from IT to the rest of the business.

The value of the results of an analytical project leads a CIO to the really big issue: who owns the analytics project? Who gets to make the decisions about what gets analyzed and when? This is where things tend to get quite interesting. From a CIO’s point-of-view, most of us realize that we can’t do this all by ourselves. We really do need a business partner to help us out. However, what tends to happen in most companies is that instead of splitting responsibility between the CIO and a business partner, all of the responsibility is placed somewhere outside of the IT department.

CIOs Are Looking For A Better Way

If the current management of analytics projects is not ideal, then how should things be done? Once again this is where things get interesting. I think that most CIOs would agree that the business side of the house has the best grasp on where the company is trying to go. For this reason, most CIOs believe that the business side of the house is the one that should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what analytics tasks the company should be working on.

However, that doesn’t really answer the question about who is really running the show when it comes to the company’s analytics projects. What most CIOs want is clear direction – these projects can cost a lot of money and it would be nice to have clear directions from senior management that shows that they fully support the effort. However, in many companies what happens is that analytics projects are driven from the bottom up by teams of IT and business members who score quick wins in an effort to get top level buy-in.

Ultimately what you are trying to do as the CIO is to create a culture of analytics within the company. Since this probably does not currently exist, you have a real job in front of you. This new culture is going to have to include both members of the IT department and from other business departments. This is not going to be an easy task. However, for your company to get the full benefits of its investment into analytics projects, you will need to be successful.

What All Of This Means For You

The good news is that the business side of the company and IT are finally working side by side on analytics projects. The bad news is that neither of us is really sure how this all works. As the person in the CIO position, you need to step up and show the company how it needs to be done.

The big question about analytics projects is who should own them: the business or IT? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The data comes from the business however the analysis must come from within IT. CIOs are dealing with the challenge of looking for a better way to make analytic projects a part of the way that the company works. How to create a culture of analytics is a big question that CIOs have to deal with.

I think that we should view the arrival of large analytics projects as being a good thing. They are driving the business and IT closer together than they have ever been before. However, it’s going to take a steady hand from the CIO to make sure that this work gets divided up properly. Work with the business side of the house and see if you can create a solution that both of you can live with.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that handing off control of analytics projects between business and IT would solve this problem?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you ask any CIO to participate in creating a strategic plan for his or her company, you’ll probably see their eyes light up. This is what they live for – getting a seat at the big table to help chart the course of the company. We all believe that we deserve this position because of the importance of information technology. This is all great, but unfortunately most of us have no idea what to do with a strategic plan or what we need to account for when it’s being created. How about if we go about fixing this problem?

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There is gold in other company's data streams, CIOs just need to know how to find it

There is gold in other company’s data streams, CIOs just need to know how to find it
Image Credit: Tony Oliver

Data, data, data everywhere. Oh, and then there is that security thing. When you have the CIO job today, you have your hands full because of the importance of information technology just trying to stay on top of all of the data that your company is generating. Your responsibility is to create, store, secure, and analyze all of the company’s data in order to provide the company with a competitive advantage. However, have you ever considered using your data mining skills to get information about the competition?

Say Hello To Social Media

Back in the day (say 5 years ago), I had my data and you had yours. Unless a CIO was willing to go “dumpster diving”, their chances of finding out what was really going on over at the company’s biggest competitor was pretty much nill. Then everything changed. The reason that everything changed is because a wave of change swept over every company out there. This wave had a name and that name was social media.

Social media is all about people talking to other people. Naturally, people who work for a firm are going to be talking about their firm. They’ll be talking about their jobs (the good and the bad), their customers (also the good and the bad), products, and plans. Pieces of information that used to only be buried deep within a company are now routinely chatted about in various social media circles.

What a CIO needs to know is what kind of information his or her company would like to find out about the competition. You can’t find what you want if you don’t know what you are looking for. The things that are of the most interest to a company include such items as product specifications along with any financial data, and recruitment efforts. One of the most important pieces of information that any company would like to learn about their competition, how customers feel about their product, is arguably the easiest type of information to collect from social media tools.

What A CIO Can’t Mine

Based on discussions that I’ve had with other CIOs, if you start to mine the data streams that are provided by the popular social media tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) you are very quickly going to be surprised at just how much information starts to come your way. Your biggest challenge isn’t going to be getting the information, rather it’s going to be sorting through all of the information that you’ve collected.

It’s while you are doing all of that sorting that you are going to have to be careful. There are a number of ethical boundaries that can show up quickly and as the CIO you are going to have to be the one who advises your IT team how they should handle each situation. Remember, just because you can do something does not mean that you should do something.

Where CIOs will run into ethical problems is when their IT staff members come to them and request permission to do things like creating a fake Facebook page or “friending” someone who works at your competitor. These types of activities are probably going too far, but you should feel free to mine your competition’s Twitter feed.

What All Of This Means For You

As the person in the CIO position, you have your hands full. Just by itself, your company is bursting at the seams with data that you are ultimately responsible for managing, storing, and securing. It turns out that the skills that you’ve developed in order to do this can also be used to keep track of the competition.

In today’s always on, hyper-connected business environment, the arrival of social media has changed everything. What used to be a private discussion now takes place online. People who you would have never know about are answering questions about your competition’s products and strategy online. All of this data is there for you to mine using your CIO skills. However, there are lines and you need to make sure that you don’t cross them.

We live in an era in which we almost think that the answer to any question that we might have must be out there somewhere already. However, when it comes to information about the company’s competition, it’s up to the CIO to go out and get what’s there. Use your well-tuned data management skills to go out there and find out what you company needs to know in order to be a success!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How much time during a week do you think a CIO should spend looking for data about the completion?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You know, for years and years we’ve talked about trying to align business and IT and yet we never seemed to make much progress. Well I’ve got some good news for you: the arrival of analytics projects where large amounts of business data has to be crunched in order to get the answers that the business needs is driving IT and the rest of the business closer together than ever before. However, even though we now understand the importance of information technology, we still have not worked out the rules for how this is to be done.

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