How CIOs Can Mine Other Company’s Data For Gold

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?

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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.