New Role of the CIO in Era of Big Data - Equal Parts Innovator and Gatekeeper

By Will Hansmann, CIO and VP-Engineering, Uptake

Will Hansmann, CIO and VP-Engineering, Uptake

Whether you call it the “Internet of Things,” the “connected world” or “Big Data,” it’s clear that, in spite of the hype and catchphrases, we are in the midst of a revolutionary transformation that is seeping into all areas of the modern enterprise, namely due to the convergence of several factors:

• Increasing connectivity of “things,”

• Vast and fast accumulation of rich data, and

• Access to this information anywhere, any time

It doesn’t matter what sector your company operates in or the size of your operation, every business that generates data is now in the data business.

And yet, fewer than 40 percent of enterprises have sufficiently mature processes and employee skills to derive value from their data, according to a recent study from CEB's Business Outcomes from Big Data.

“Smart” products and machines are generating data at unprecedented levels of volume, velocity, and variety, but most enterprises do not fully know what to do with this information once they have it.

The circumstances beg for a champion—and fast.

CIOs are uniquely situated not only to implement the technologies and processes necessary to capitalize on the ever-increasing influx of data but also to become an important business partner in developing overall company strategy around data collection and application to uncover new competitive advantages.

The days of “keeping the lights on” are long gone. With our ability to understand and synthesize new data into critical insights, today’s CIOs are primed to take on a more visible, expanded leadership role by ushering the company through a series of stages that will enable achieve greater data maturity:

Stage 1 - Internal Optimization: Achieve data-driven thinking that turns the standard gut heuristics into concrete insights leading to experiment-driven, continual improvement. Whether your business is generating machine data, consumer data, fleet data, environment data or process and system data, the health of your business is written in the story told by that data.

Stage 2 - Product Optimization: Turning these insights into enhanced or new products for customers is where a bigger impact will occur. Understand how the organization can best leverage this data to optimize customers’ experience.

Stage 3 - New Data Products: The last step is to bring new data product to your customers by directly delivering the insights to them. What does your data tell your customers about themselves and their business?

Within many traditional businesses, Stage 2 has barely been explored, and Stage 3 is a foreign concept. The CIO needs to be the evangelist that leads their organization to these next-level operations.

Of course, with this great opportunity to take a more prominent seat at the executive table come equally great challenges. Governance and controls necessary for this new threat level are a much bigger challenge than many companies fully recognize.

Like so much in security, a single connected device might be rated a small risk, but the sum of many—or millions—of small risks add up to the most serious. A connected enterprise’s machines, employees, customers, fleets and systems provide nearly complete insight into what a company does and how exactly it does it. It is a real-time capture of all of an enterprise’s strengths and weaknesses, one that is extremely attractive to malicious actors, whether competitive interests, nation states or criminal enterprises.

This is just one of the unique balancing acts that CIOs must contend with in this new era. As more devices become connected and access via the cloud gives us 24/7 visibility, we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the significant value in data but also tasked with the important role of ensuring this new most-valuable asset is effectively guarded. It is a role that requires as many hats as there are terms for the era of Big Data and the Internet of Things.

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