The CIO as an analytics change agent

Chris MazzeiIn the last in the series, Chris Mazzei, Chief Analytics Officer at EY, looks at how analytics can help you get ahead of the rest of the C-suite.

Should data and analytics be the responsibility of the CIO? The answer is … it depends. It depends on the organization, its structure and capabilities, and the nature of its data challenges. Nearly half (46%) of executives who participated in a recent EY and Forbes Insight survey say their organization has created the post of either a Chief Data Officer or a Chief Analytics Officer. But, whoever ultimately owns this responsibility, the CIO has a vital role to play in ensuring that the organization takes full account of the human – and wider behavioral – dimensions of the analytics challenge. This is an imperative that I have discussed in other posts in this series.

For example, even where other executives take ultimate ownership, the CIO can do much to make sure that IT, the analytics teams and the end users address the underlying business questions that are at the heart of analytics initiatives. Understanding these questions is critical before going too far down a particular infrastructure path. Too many organizations spend big money on analytics technology without having a clear line of sight into the business question they are trying to solve.

The right questions

I pointed out in my previous post that data analytics yields little value if a human fails to make the necessary business decisions or implement the change processes indicated by the data insights. When IT is involved in an initiative, the CIO is in the best leadership position to ensure that IT asks the right questions at the outset:

  • What business decision must be informed and what process change needs to take place based on the insights gained from the analytics?
  • Which end user needs to make that decision and change?

When we see IT and the business working effectively in analytics, one of the reasons is that IT is consistently asking these fundamental questions. The business starts to think differently about IT when it sees that it can have this type of business dialogue. CIOs must not only encourage IT to think and act like this. They need to ensure that people with the right skills and mindset are in place to do it.

Knocking heads together

When it comes to analytics overall, leadership from the top is far from assured in many organizations. “Weak leadership support” is cited by the survey respondents as the top barrier to the deployment of meaningful data analytics. These are companies where the CIO may need to step in: after all, they are in a better position than others to ensure that the type of collaboration described becomes a reality. Such collaboration doesn’t come naturally: the will of team leaders or department heads normally isn’t enough to make it happen. It takes strong leadership from someone with a seat at the top table.

Furthermore, a critical part of making analytics happen is the technology enablement from IT – especially when this can be driven by a business-savvy CIO.

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