Big data offers CIOs opportunity to raise their boardroom profile
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Big data offers CIOs opportunity to raise their boardroom profile

Mark Roy — September 2014

CIOs need to make the ROI of big data a shareholder metric, argues Mark Roy, chair of the Direct Marketing Association’s Data Council — and demonstrate the value of data insight to the board.

An article published out of MIT nearly two decades ago by two highly respected academics, and provocatively entitled ‘Is Your CIO Adding Value?,’ found that CEOs typically didn’t know how to evaluate their CIO’s contribution to the business. The same article also referenced psychometric data showing that CIOs derive huge satisfaction from knowing they’ve influenced the course of the business. So on the one hand you had CIOs who needed to know they were making a difference and on the other CEOs who couldn’t tell if they were or not.

Mark Roy


Today, there is some evidence that such attitudes and expectations have moved on. A recent Gartner poll showed CEOs identifying the CIO skillset as the most suitable for driving digital innovation and change. And, one area in particular — big data — uniquely empowers CIOs to demonstrate their contribution in the boardroom in a big way.

The volume of data now available to organizations — and the new capabilities for making sense of it — can be immensely valuable, from highlighting the behaviour of customers and predicting and pre-empting their needs to helping businesses better manage their internal resources and more efficiently meet operational demands.
Who should own big data?

But CIOs are not the only executives who are in the running to absorb more responsibility for big data into their role. Sovereignty over data is unclear, with credible claims to the crown of big data also coming from the offices of the CMO, CDOs and others. CMOs, in particular, have thus far been masters of executing strategies based on data to reach consumers more effectively. However, as the quantity of data being generated and procured by companies surges, so the need for greater depths of analysis of that data grows. And naturally, the storage and interrogation of data at scale requires the involvement of the CIO, both their budget and their responsibility.

So there’s a narrowing window of opportunity for CIOs to reinforce their value by taking a more front-footed approach to big data. By taking a more active involvement with their company’s data activity, CIOs can help to lead business activities. Working closely with the CMO and taking responsibility for the accumulation, storage and analysis of data also enables CIOs to demonstrate the tangible value of an investment in data to the business. CIOs can prove to the board what their division of the company is bringing to the bottom line – i.e.“We spent X clearing our databases of customers who have, for example, moved house, changed jobs or left the country, and it’s saved the marketing group Y on outreach.”

“There’s a narrowing window of opportunity for CIOs to reinforce their value by taking a more front-footed approach to big data.”

There’s another reason CIOs should consider data to be a greater part of their responsibility. A study by Oracle found that 93% of C-level executives believe their organizations are losing revenue as a result of not fully leveraging the information they collect. And CIOs are ideally positioned to help lead company investment in the systems and processes that turn increasing quantities of business data into increasing quantities of business insight.

The idea that CMOs and CIOs need to collaborate on big data is hardly new. What isn’t yet being championed enough is the fact that by absorbing more of the responsibility for big data into their role, CIOs can be heroes in the boardroom as the application of data strategies drives growth and creates competitive advantage. Big data is a strategic tool that shareholders should be keen to hear more about — hopefully from the CIO.

• Mark Roy is founder of the Data Agency and chair of the Direct Marketing Association’s Data Council

First published September 2014
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