Putting 'I' back in CIO

IT can help derive greater benefits from analytics and big data

By Dan Vesset, Program Vice President, IDC

"At some point, the title of the chief information officer (CIO) has become disconnected from information. A growing chorus of users consider IT a roadblock to better information management, access and analysis – not a partner in improving current shortcomings.

An IDC research study commissioned by SAS, The CIO's Chance of a Lifetime: Using Big Data and Analytics as a Ticket to Strategic Relevance, points to many organizations where:

  • IT believes that it controls all things data. The reality is that analytics activities are finding a home in the enterprise, but it is not in IT.
  • Technology is believed to be the biggest challenge to successful analytics projects. The reality is the challenge is the organizational mindset and culture.
  • The value of analytics is believed to be understood by all. The reality is business units have significant trouble articulating the value of analytics.
  • IT believes that analytics is impossible without the IT group. The reality is others in the organization view the IT group as part of the problem, not the solution.

These are the four myths and the realities confronting organizations that participated in a recent IDC research study. The study was based on four roundtable sessions of IT, business unit and analytics leaders from North America, Western Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, as well as a survey of 578 IT, business unit, analytics managers and executives from those regions.

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We can interpret these results as a glass-half-empty story of a bleak outlook for CIOs and their role in big data and analytics. Or we can see this as a glass-half-full story of an unprecedented opportunity for CIOs to embrace the changes brought about by big data and analytics to claim a new leadership role in guiding their organizations toward a culture of data-driven decision making.

The IDC research points to a clear difference among organizations classified as “analytic achievers” and the rest of the crowd when it comes to the role the CIO and the IT group can take in supporting and enabling analytics technology and processes. Analytic achievers experienced greater benefits from their big data and analytics projects and directly addressed the myths noted above.


Four characteristics define these IT leaders. In general, they:

  1. Take an active role in developing their organization’s analytics strategy. This strategy tends to be (25 percent more often) an enterprisewide strategy. They support creation of, and work closely with, analytics groups and the emerging role of chief analytics officer.
  2. Actively influence the data-driven, decision-making culture in their organization by becoming a clearinghouse for sharing and disseminating best practices. They make a shift from providing technology in response to requests and take on a much more consultative role.
  3. Tell better analytics success stories that highlight the value the IT group and others in the organization add to big data and analytics projects. They often assist in measuring and assessing the outcomes of analytics projects.
  4. Provide a world-class analytics platform and then know when to step aside. They recognize that an IT group's core competency is focusing on the information management steps – data integration, data management, data quality and data security – of the analytics life cycle. At the same time, they recognize the need and desire of business and analytics groups to use their own tools and applications. To shun the current self-service culture is to fight a losing battle, and CIOs of high-achieving organizations have recognized that.

These CIOs saw an opportunity to address their challenges and put together a strategy that allows them to be a crucial partner of the business units and analytics group in realizing the benefits of big data. The global marketplace is in the early stages of a long-term path toward greater reliance on data – from customer interactions, sensors, mobile devices and many other sources – and analytics to derive value from the data. CIOs have an opportunity to refocus on information management and showcase their strategic value to the organization for years to come.

Dan Vesset

Dan Vesset is Program Vice President of IDC's Business Analytics research. Dan's research and consulting is currently focused on business analytics, business intelligence and data warehousing software markets. Dan is also the co-lead of IDC's Big Data research. He has authored numerous research publications, is a frequent speaker at business analytics conferences and seminars worldwide, contributes to IDC’s Business Analytics and Big Data blog, and tweets at @danvesset.

Putting 'I' back in CIO

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  • Register at sas.com/myths to watch four 10-minute webcasts that explain the research findings and how CIOs can take an active role in developing their companies' analytics strategies.

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