Making the Case for a Chief Data Officer

Slide Show

Analytics and the Path to Value

When it comes to business, information is clearly power.

There's obviously a lot of buzz these days about the potential value of analytics across just about every business process in the enterprise. But analytics for the sake of analytics is not likely to accomplish much of anything. In fact, without a sound approach to managing the underlying data that goes into these analytic applications, it's more than likely that we'll see a backlash against all the hype that is starting to build around analytic applications.

For that reason, the folks at the business and IT consulting firm Deloitte Consulting LLP are trying to get companies to focus on analytics in the real world, which combines advanced analytics with information management, business intelligence software and enterprise performance management applications to create a more holistic approach to managing the business.

To further this agenda, John Lucker, a principal with Deloitte, says that many companies are now moving to appoint "data czars," also known as chief data officers, within their organizations. Although chief information officers (CIOs) are nominally responsible for information, Lucker says too many CIOs have been acting more like chief technology officers. Very few of them are actually focused on managing the information that the business actually depends on.

To make analytics valuable, Lucker says IT organizations need to have a real information management strategy in place that starts with the data and includes the packaged applications along with the custom advanced analytics needed to give the business insights that will ultimately provide business advantages over rivals. This means that companies not only have to better understand how analytic models are constructed, they will also have to be willing to sometimes change the organizational structure of the company to make sure those insights get into the hands of the people best able to actually act on that information.

This push towards analytics, adds Lucker, should also ultimately heal the divide between IT and the rest of business because rather than just processing and storing data, the IT department will be seen as a critical business enabler.

All of this, of course, is much easier said than done. The good news is that as more companies discover the potential value of analytics, the more willing they are to have much larger conversations about the business as a whole. That doesn't mean companies should take on multiple, multimillion-dollar, analytics application development projects tomorrow. Every company needs to learn to walk with analytics before learning to run. It does mean that whatever analytics projects a company does take on, they should be done in the context of a larger, strategic framework that is being overseen by someone senior enough in the organization who not only makes it easier to create analytics applications that have real value, but also brings all the pieces together in a way that maximizes the benefit to the business.