In the quest for digital transformation, analytics serve as a kind of GPS system. It sets you off in the right direction, monitoring to keep you on track, and recalculating your route when you run into a roadblock or take a wrong turn. These days, I see many companies capturing more data than ever, yet struggling with how to use the information to navigate competitive markets and chart a course for greater operational efficiency. Some are finally recognizing that when it comes to implementing a data analytics strategy, they have the perfect driver already in their organization – their CIO.

Collaboration Enables Data Aggregation

The IT organization has comprehensive access to the stores of data collected and used by business units. These data sets are largely housed in disparate systems and databases with little integration. Bringing all of the data together is the first step in launching an analytics plan.

Fortunately, driving collaboration across the organization is becoming more of an emphasis for IT. While IT executives often work closely with multiple departments, there is a natural alignment with the Operations and Finance groups – these teams tend to be more analytical.

Generally, these departments collect and generate tons of data critical to nearly every analytics initiative, so this is a good starting point. From there, expanding intercompany collaboration is important to aggregate all relevant corporate data into a framework for analysis. And while pulling all data into a single, unified system of record is time-consuming and costly, there are more agile options for integrated analysis and reporting. The CIO is the leader to bring in those technologies.

Taking the Lead on Digital Transformation

As growth in digitalization continues to accelerate, businesses are also looking to CIOs to take the lead on digital transformation. According to Gartner, nearly 40 percent of CIOs said they were personally driving digital transformation initiatives within their organization. This makes sense as the CIOs’ teams hold the keys to the digital kingdom – the data.

Additionally from Gartner: CIOs predict that digitalized processes will increase from 42 percent to 77 percent over the next 5 years. However, while the automation and intelligent orchestration of processes is central to the concept of digital transformation, it’s analytics that’ll ensure the right processes are automated and optimized for the desired business outcomes. The CIO is uniquely positioned with both the data and key relationships to incorporate analytics into the management of the business.

Roadblocks and Detours on the Way to Analytics

However, there will be challenges for the CIO on the road to better business analytics. Many CIOs say staffing the right resources and skills is the biggest challenge they face. So recruiting and retention are clearly big concerns for IT organizations today. Specifically, the demand is growing for data scientists – individuals who can extract insight from structured and unstructured information. The supply isn’t likely to keep up.

Funding and budgetary pressures are always on the list of challenges as well. In addition, there could be technical hurdles to overcome, such as legacy systems without APIs, hindering access to relevant analytics data. So, it won’t necessarily be easy, but the end result is worth the extra effort.

Leveraging the CIO to Advance Data Analytics

So how can the expanding role of the CIO be leveraged to improve business analytics? As more CIOs take the driver’s seat for the digital transformation of their companies, they have an unprecedented level of influence over the enterprise-wide strategy. This influence, along with stronger collaboration with other business line leaders, helps them determine the best means for aggregating and analyzing all the diverse business data needed to make strategic decisions.

Whether that entails a single platform to integrate all the disparate data and orchestrate all the relevant work activities in a central location, or a reporting framework to pull in data from multiple disparate systems, CIOs are well positioned to determine the mechanism that works best for their particular organization.

Ultimately, I see today’s CIO as having a great opportunity to drive the digitalization process and to accelerate the journey towards improved business outcomes.

For more on what the road ahead looks like for IT, check out PMG's infographic: What the Future Looks Like for Today's CIO.

(About the author: Joe LeCompte is a principal at PMG)

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