The Information in Chief Information Officer

Published
  • January 30 2008, 12:49pm EST

Like a maze for humans from a Stephen King novel, today’s CIOs find themselves facing a variety of roads to business intelligence (BI). Trying to build BI, make information into a corporate asset and create competitive advantage for the business with information can be a daunting challenge in a world of vendor promises, competitive accusations, demo parity and buzzword overuse. The power of information is becoming recognized as a driver of corporate growth and a significant element of corporate strategy. The CIO is on the hot seat for fulfilling this promise.

The roads to BI include data warehousing, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), master data management (MDM), data quality, data mining, metadata management and operational BI. These are all inculcated into the CIO’s culture as projects requiring dedicated and significant budgets and widespread corporate interest. Furthermore, perhaps no other executive has the perspective of as many departments as the CIO. This perspective should give the astute CIO unique knowledge of where the business is and where it is going.

A strong information orientation is now a must-have for effective CIOs. Information management, broadly speaking, is forming a greater and greater percentage of the IT budget. As well, it should form an even greater CIO mind share as these tend to be the more progressive, unknown and early-stage projects. The market forces efficiencies into our operations over time, and in a tough, stabilizing economy granting market-level (yet still comparatively strong) investments in IT, information management is significant enough that inefficiencies will be forced out.

The efforts to ensure information management efficiencies today include (mostly) ineffective technology governance, which, at most, recommends technology purchases. Step one is a retooling of technology governance toward information management orientation and expertise.

Next, make some vendor decisions in a consolidating information management marketplace because some efficiencies will eventually come to clients from the Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and IBM buying sprees. Vendors could be put into the pole position for new technology needs; they could be put into “contain” mode or replacement mode. These are important decisions with many factors to consider, and they are areas of significant information management focus for today’s CIO.

Most sponsorship, governance and stewardship efforts are focused on a singular implementation, such as the data warehouse, the ERP system or the MDM hub. However, now is the time that the CIO needs to form another level of governance for his or her projects - a higher level, architecturally speaking. That level is information management governance. Though individual projects still require governance, information management overall requires governance to ensure coordination and efficiency of all the information management projects.

This governance will be the CIO’s advocate. CIOs generally do not have the bandwidth to do the coordination tasks necessary across the projects by himself or herself. Technology leadership is a ticket to entry for the CIO today. So is being a solution provider to the business and getting kudos for doing what the business asks of IT. Many of today’s CIOs will need to effect dramatic culture change in order to accede to their responsibilities.

IT needs people that can integrate projects at the technology, architecture and schedule levels. Anyone who has been through one of these information projects knows the importance (and the difficulty) of getting business units to coordinate business requirements. Now, it is time to also focus on coordinating the technology response. The culture change required has a lot to do with promoting a mind-set of coordination within IT. For the trade-off of greater long-term efficiency, it may be prudent to allow individual project delay or budgeted project allowances for connecting the dots across projects.

Numerous points of integration exist today. However, most of these opportunities are missed. If only 5 percent to 10 percent of them were realized, it would make a huge difference. For example, consider how many customer masters are built independently for CRM, for the data warehouse, perhaps for the call center and even for an MDM customer hub, which theoretically is supposed to be the only corporate customer master!

CIOs’ requirements are changing. They are responsible for converting enormous amounts of data into information, knowledge, actions and business improvement - lofty goals indeed. CIOs will understand what makes their businesses not only operate but thrive. Today, that is largely information management.

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