Departmental silos will be a big challenge as organizations try to put Big Data to work, according to a recent report by the McKinsey Quarterly:
One big challenge is the fact that the mountains of data many companies are amassing often lurk in departmental silos,' such as R&D, engineering, manufacturing, or service operations-impeding timely exploitation. Information hoarding within business units also can be a problem: many financial institutions, for example, suffer from their own failure to share data among diverse lines of business, such as financial markets, money management, and lending.
The Business Impact of Big Data
Many business executives want more information than ever, even though they're already drowning in it.
However, in the long run, McKinsey contends Big Data could become "a new type of corporate asset that will cut across business units and functions much as a powerful brand does, representing a key basis for competition."
Already, some manufacturing companies are trying to eliminate line of business silos by:
The shift to Big Data won't just impact individual organizations, but will improve productivity across health care, government, retailing and manufacturing, which in turn could produce "hundreds of billions of dollars and euros in new value," predicts McKinsey.
CIOs can expect Big Data to also have a huge impact on how IT interacts with the rest of the company. That's because it will change how business users perceive data and use it.
In the past, IT worked primarily with finance to run reports, which were often used to justify decisions leaders had already made. That will change with Big Data, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and a renown researcher on IT's impact on productivity. The McKinsey Quarterly interviewed Brynjolfsson, along with two other Big Data experts, for a second article focused on creating a game plan for Big Data.
" historically, that kind of data was used more to confirm and support decisions that had already been made, rather than to learn new things and to discover the right answer," Brynjolfsson told McKinsey. "The cultural change is for managers to be willing to say, You know, that's an interesting problem, an interesting question. Let's set up an experiment to discover the answer.'"
This new potential use of data means IT will spend more time working with marketing and customer relationship management business users because they have the biggest data needs, says Brynjolfsson.
"This is part of a broader revolution as we move from just financial numerical data toward all sorts of non-financial metrics," he said. "It's not just big data in the sense that we have lots of data. You can also think of it as nano' data, in the sense that we have very, very fine-grained data - an ability to measure things much more precisely than in the past. You can learn about the preferences of an individual customer and personalize your offerings for that particular customer."
Factiva recently studied how Big Data is impacting end-user roles. The study identified six emerging "data-savvy personas" that workers take on. Each persona is unique in its approach and use for data, and IT will need to be able to accommodate all those needs.
Frankly, reading these six roles, you soon realize that a self-serve model for data is the only real option as more organizations embrace the idea of data as a strategic advantage.
Another change that McKinsey says Big Data will bring for IT: You'll be expected to integrate data from the company's big systems - enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management - with business intelligence tools.