Big Data Is Only Valuable To CIOs If They Know How To Use It

by drjim on April 15, 2015

Just having big data is not enough, you need to know what to do with it

Just having big data is not enough, you need to know what to do with it
Image Credit: Ian Alexander Martin

CIOs everywhere are being overwhelmed with talk about “big data”. This is simply using IT systems and tools to process very large data sets in order to answer questions about how best to run the company. What used to be too big of a task for anyone to attempt has become doable with new tools and techniques allowing us to harness the importance of information technology. However, it turns out that just having all the data is not enough – you actually have to know what to do with it.

Why Working With Big Data Is So Hard

One of the reasons that dealing with big data is so very hard to do is because it’s all about finding a way to first gather, then comb through a very large amount of data in order to find insights that can’t be found when you are operating on a smaller scale. The key to any good big data project is being able to collect all of the data that you need and this is where things start to get complicated.

The first problem that many people with the CIO job run into is the simple fact that your company uses a great number of pieces of equipment and applications that were never designed to work together. What this means is that these different devices and systems all speak different digital languages. In order to collect and aggregate the data that they are producing, you are going to have to create an IT team to make sure that the data that you are collecting will be able to be processed later on.

The next challenge that you’re going to be facing is going to be that you may not know what kind of data you are collecting. You need to keep in mind that the big data that is being assembled comes from many different parts of your company. Those different parts generally don’t work together and rarely do they coordinate how their processes work. What this means for you as the person in the CIO position is that your department is going to have to work with all of these other departments. The goal is going to have to be to find out what terms are being used to describe what items. You’ll probably find out that a number of different terms are being used to describe the very same thing.

It’s All About Relationships

Once you have the big data that you are going to need for your analysis, this is when the fun really begins. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the numbers that the company uses everyday like sales and spending. However, if you do this then you’ll be missing the point. What big data analysis is really designed to do is allow the IT department to study the relationships between different sets of numbers. This is how you can spot trends that don’t show up in smaller data sets.

This is good stuff; however, as CIO you need to be aware of the challenges that come along with performing big data analysis. One of the biggest questions that you are going to have to deal with is determining when you have enough data. There seem to an ever growing number of data sources that could be added to your big data collection. However, at some time you are going to have to say “enough is enough” and stop the collection of more data and start the hard work of analyzing it.

As a CIO it is going to require your input to keep things moving. When you consider all of the different sources of data that will be included in a big data project, things can quickly become overwhelming. There may be transcripts of calls with customers, government market studies, web-search results, etc. Your team may get bogged down just trying to make sense of it all. It’s going to be your job to help them understand what is really important and to realize the importance of moving forward.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs need to understand that their world has changed. What used to be impossible is now possible. All of that data that the company has been collecting for so long can now be analyzed in order to provide insights into how the company can be more successful. The trick is knowing how to do this.

One of the most important things that a CIO has to realize is that how the big data is communicated is going to be very important. This means that you need to get the various groups that collect the data to use the same terms to refer to it and to make sure that the data is all formatted the same way. The other thing that has to be understood is that using big data is not all about number crunching. Instead, it’s about studying the relationships between different groups of data.

CIOs that can harness the power of big data analysis for their company can help the company to realize big dividends. In order to make this happen, you are going to have to sit down with everyone who is in charge of collecting the data and get them to provide it to you in a way that it can be understood and processed. This is not going to be easy to do, but the end results will make all of the effort that you put into it well worth the effort.

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

Question For You: What part of your company do you think would benefit the most from big data results?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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?

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