Given the immense importance of the data ecosystem, many CIOs may wonder what their role will be in ensuring that the company is positioned for data success. IT leaders need to assess their people, processes, and technology, and provide the leadership that underpin these contemporary data ecosystems. This means having a clear understanding of both business goals and the technology that can help drive them. The CIO’s role is one of IT leadership and business advisement to ensure that the company uses the data ecosystem effectively.
Connect with business leaders
One of the most important roles for the CIO is serving as a connection between business leaders and the technology world. A company cannot effectively use the data ecosystem unless it has strong buy-in from business leaders. This means that the CIO must strive to show the real value of data and data-driven processes and tools. Building a coalition of partners in business and IT units is critical to ensuring that every facet of the company is using data to drive insights and innovation. The CIO must work with business leaders to motivate collaboration at all levels.
- Build relationships – IT’s role is one of business support. It works to ensure that the business is using data in a way that allows employees to work more effectively and innovate. This means that the CIO must constantly build relationships both within and outside of IT. The data ecosystem should be a part of every business unit and every decision made within the company. The CIO needs to listen to the needs of the business and collaborate with other units to implement solutions that work for everyone.
- Make the business case for data – Developing the infrastructure necessary for companies to fully embrace the data ecosystem means significant time and resource investments. Many business leaders will be hesitant to make significant outlays without a strong business case. It’s the responsibility of the CIO to make this case and work with business leaders to develop solutions that meet the needs of the company.
Invest in the data ecosystem
The CIO must ensure that time, resource, and cultural investments are made into making a company data-driven. The forward-thinking CIO needs to invest in IT skills and technology partners that will foster a culture that is motivated to understand the business data at deeper levels and that will be able to collaborate with business at a data-context level. IT must play a major leadership role in enabling the necessary frameworks, architectures, and governance of the data ecosystem. The CIO needs to harness core competencies in managing data-ecosystem services that consume both structured and unstructured data, providing analytics “sandboxes” that allow for exploration, hypothesis modeling, and prototyping. These new structures require agile technologies and methodologies that don’t demand “perfect” quality scrubbed data.
Shadow IT is becoming increasingly common as workers go outside of the CIO’s purview to implement solutions that meet their needs. This can cause problems for the IT department, as they must often fix technical issues and security breaches introduced by these solutions. However, the CIO cannot afford to simply pretend these outside needs do not exist. The knowledge worker is demanding self-service tools that facilitate using data environments very quickly without long lead times and eliminating the dependence on IT organizations. IT should focus on building self-service frameworks that liberate the knowledge worker, providing more independence for experimenting, data exploration, and modeling, but in a way that works with the company’s overarching technology goals.
Ensure data readiness
Today’s data-driven organizations need secure, clean, and in-context data. These are high hurdles for most IT organizations, due to a lack of data centralization and the challenges around data integration when connecting disparate structured and unstructured data sources. Implementing master-data management and other similar solutions can help organize, centralize, and clean data, ensuring greater accuracy and consistency across the business. The CIO must spearhead these initiatives, working with business leaders to collect and collate data, reducing duplicate records, and improving the overall cohesiveness of the company’s data.
Increase compatibility and connectivity
Collaboration across the enterprise is a critical element of the data-driven workplace. Technology tools and flexible infrastructure, such as cloud and mobile, have emerged and are becoming more commonplace. This allows for the connection of these complex data ecosystems to enable more natural data exploration in serving the dynamic, interdependent needs of organizations. However, it is the responsibility of the CIO to ensure that these tools are adopted and that data is cross-compatible between platforms. Ensuring that data is clean and consistently formatted requires significant oversight and governance. The IT department must help guide the business to ensure an effective, overarching strategy for data across the enterprise.
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