Aligning Business & IT
You know, for years and years we’ve talked about trying to align business and IT and yet we never seemed to make much progress. Well I’ve got some good news for you: the arrival of analytics projects where large amounts of business data has to be crunched in order to get the answers that the business needs is driving IT and the rest of the business closer together than ever before. However, even though we now understand the importance of information technology, we still have not worked out the rules for how this is to be done.
The reason that analytics projects bring the business and IT together has to do with the raw material that any analytics project needs: data. One of the most important issues that the CIO has to help his or her company with is to determine which direction they want to use their analytics projects to look. It can be very easy to start to look backwards as you process the data – after all that is the story that the data is telling you. However, no matter who is running the show you have to push to get the company to use the output of your analytics project to look forward because that is where the real value is.
As the CIO you are going to have to set up new processes to guide the company’s analytics projects. Let’s face it, some very sophisticated tools are going to be used to crunch all of that data. This means that the IT department is going to have to develop the expertise that will be required to operate the tools that will be used. As the results of the project start to show up, you are going to have to take charge and coordinate how the information flows from IT to the rest of the business.
The value of the results of an analytical project leads a CIO to the really big issue: who owns the analytics project? Who gets to make the decisions about what gets analyzed and when? This is where things tend to get quite interesting. From a CIO’s point-of-view, most of us realize that we can’t do this all by ourselves. We really do need a business partner to help us out. However, what tends to happen in most companies is that instead of splitting responsibility between the CIO and a business partner, all of the responsibility is placed somewhere outside of the IT department.
If the current management of analytics projects is not ideal, then how should things be done? Once again this is where things get interesting. I think that most CIOs would agree that the business side of the house has the best grasp on where the company is trying to go. For this reason, most CIOs believe that the business side of the house is the one that should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what analytics tasks the company should be working on.
However, that doesn’t really answer the question about who is really running the show when it comes to the company’s analytics projects. What most CIOs want is clear direction – these projects can cost a lot of money and it would be nice to have clear directions from senior management that shows that they fully support the effort. However, in many companies what happens is that analytics projects are driven from the bottom up by teams of IT and business members who score quick wins in an effort to get top level buy-in.
Ultimately what you are trying to do as the CIO is to create a culture of analytics within the company. Since this probably does not currently exist, you have a real job in front of you. This new culture is going to have to include both members of the IT department and from other business departments. This is not going to be an easy task. However, for your company to get the full benefits of its investment into analytics projects, you will need to be successful.
The good news is that the business side of the company and IT are finally working side by side on analytics projects. The bad news is that neither of us is really sure how this all works. As the person in the CIO position, you need to step up and show the company how it needs to be done.
The big question about analytics projects is who should own them: the business or IT? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The data comes from the business however the analysis must come from within IT. CIOs are dealing with the challenge of looking for a better way to make analytic projects a part of the way that the company works. How to create a culture of analytics is a big question that CIOs have to deal with.
I think that we should view the arrival of large analytics projects as being a good thing. They are driving the business and IT closer together than they have ever been before. However, it’s going to take a steady hand from the CIO to make sure that this work gets divided up properly. Work with the business side of the house and see if you can create a solution that both of you can live with.