William Adiletta spent more than two decades establishing infrastructure networks and architecture as a leading information officer at financial services providers like TekFinancial Solutions and Global Crossing, now part of Level 3 Communications. Recently, he’s switched gears in a role as partner in the technology practice at financial services business and tech consultancy Capco. The newly minted consultant discussed his thoughts on business-first IT projects and big data’s rippling role across industries.

You’ve been involved in plenty of information infrastructure projects as a CIO. What do you see as central to keeping a “big picture” view when you’re wrapped up in these projects so that you don’t miss the ultimate business expectations?

Some of this should already be there for CIOs. CIOs should focus on leadership, finding the right talent and recognizing that within IT while your [enterprises is] in the midst of significant changes. You have to make sure that whatever you’re doing in that transformation is based on creating business value, that the information enhances the business. Working with your business partners has become one of the more crucial characteristics for a CIO. Because the reality is that the business models are changing. You have to work with the business partners and in alliance with the transformation they’re going through – whether it’s to be more competitive, to drive costs, to improve client relations – to support the IT infrastructure costs.

On the tech side, what is a trend you see that holds true promise for business and reality for IT? Something that’s not just hype or a rehash of what's already been discussed for a few years?

It’s hard to say a single driver because it depends on what industry you’re in. Something like big data, that’s a situation where we’re storing so much information … One of the things we have to do is to analyze and use that information effectively. If we store it and don’t use it, it’s a capital waste, a tremendous amount of effort just to capture that information. It’s hard, and there are so many sources, both structured and unstructured. But I think this focus on big data is an absolute competitive differentiator. In my view, it’s nowhere near overhyped. It’s underappreciated in terms of how significant the impact it’s going to have across all businesses, certainly in the capital markets.

So how do you get there on the CIO and enterprise side? Even with all the ramping interest in big data, is there a level of oversight with basic things like governance that you’re seeing?

Certainly financial services and banking can provide better services, customer loyalty and new revenue opportunities, and we’ve seen examples of that from clients. Big data starts with an enormously efficient practice on data warehousing, business intelligence and predictive analysis. … Just the concept of anything being this big, it behooves you to have good controls over what you’re doing. Data governance and  metrics around your data are crucial factors in being able to manage the exponential growth of data. Without a doubt, the ability to put in a broad set of information management structures is a precursor to being successful in the big data space. And a lot of firms are doing that, but the rate of growth of information has increased so much that we’re deep in the throes of working with clients who are revisiting whatever they had set up as policies, as data management, the KPIs driving the value out of data -- especially the larger your organization is. If you have your governance create your metadata and taxonomies consistent across your enterprise, you can mine your data more quickly at a lower cost because you’ve created these data governance standards.

What would be a couple of tips from your CIO experience on conveying the business advantages of these highly technical and developing IT areas like big data?

The number one driver to success is that leadership has to understand, from the business partners, what their pain points are and what keeps them up at night. In approaching any of these new technologies – mobile solutions, social media, big data – you get a deep understanding of your business partners’ needs are, all in the context of business. It’s from IT but it’s not a technology. It’s more of ways to drive revenue, customer service and brand recognition from the business value point of view, and then convert that to how you approach any new technology. My best experiences have always been with business partners who you have a dialogue with.

Give me a synopsis of your new role and some of the advantages from seeing the CIO from this new angle.

Now, I’m leveraging my past to understand those deep relationships that the CIO builds with its business partners and the criticality of bringing in new technologies with all of the disciplined project and budget control to make sure you deliver what the clients are looking for. … My sense of it is being able to walk up to a CIO and having walked in his shoes. I know that they are under constant need from business for more, and more quickly, and at a lower cost.

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