CIOs: Three Considerations for Digital Transformation

CIOs: Three Considerations for Digital Transformation


Many businesses today are scrutinizing their operations to figure out how to join the digital transformation revolution. They understand that to become more competitive and customer-centric, they need processes that are flexible, integrated, insightful and scalable. They understand harnessing data and infusing business processes with it is the key to success.

Unfortunately, poor data practices, which cost businesses $3 trillion a year, are often overlooked as a key blocker. When it comes to the impact caused by poor data quality, the figures speak for themselves.

To turn that enormous loss into opportunities, CIOs need to better operationalize data at enterprise scale—putting qualified, clean, reliable data into the hands of more employees for them to then analyze and make fast, informed decisions. With the new emphasis on agility through digital transformation, CIOs now have the power to enable rapid change within their businesses by developing digital strategies with data at the core. These leaders have to change the departmental view that data is solely an asset utilized primarily by data scientists, and expand it to encompass data usage by the entire enterprise.

Before CIOs can enable greater insight through self-service, they need to rethink their role within the broader organization—shifting from simply being a caretaker of utility-type technologies that run the business to being a facilitator that helps users leverage data to gain insights.

CIOs and IT leaders need to create a foundational roadmap that:

  • Ensures data integrity
  • Provides self-service tools and data access for all employees
  • Incorporates a flexible, open platform that can easily integrate with future technologies

Digital transformation doesn’t just involve the technology a company implements or saying it’s going to be more customer-centric; it also means making sure enterprise data is clean, accurate, and easy to find, analyze and share.

Ensuring data integrity

Corporations have spent years and billions of dollars trying to create better internal data systems by building centralized data warehouses using integration appliances to eliminate data silos. But these efforts focused solely on integrating internal systems and often neglected to include the multitude of cloud, social, IoT, smartphone and other external applications or unstructured data sources that generate massive volumes of information.

As these new external data sets and applications are incorporated into enterprise data lakes, CIOs need to determine the best way to ensure the accuracy and integrity of this data, while also providing broader access to it. Without solid data integrity practices, bad data will continue to thwart a company’s digital transformation and hinder its competitiveness.

Bad data practices often lead to hours of lost productivity such as: “Salespeople wasting time dealing with erred prospect data; and service delivery people wasting time correcting flawed customer orders received from sales. Data scientists spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning data, and IT expends enormous effort lining up systems that “don’t talk.” Senior executives hedge their plans because they don’t trust the numbers from finance,” according to a Harvard Business Review article on bad data.

It’s time to include those that handle customer data on a daily basis to help maintain its quality. It can no longer be just an IT function. New self-service solutions are equipped with intuitive interfaces like Excel that make them familiar to non-data experts. Most are capable of automatically recognizing common errors in datasets found in email addresses, phone numbers or postal addresses, and guiding users through the necessary actions to correct them.

Quality, accuracy and universal access

CIOs are ultimately responsible for making sure enterprise information is available, accurate and secure. Additionally, new mandates such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require CIOs to also track data throughout its lifecycle to ensure it remains accurate across all uses;  is only accessed by those with permission, and recognized when it is updated, no matter where it resides within the enterprise.

That’s a tall order when you consider the petabytes of data flowing in from many sources, adding to the petabytes more companies already have stored. Add to this the problem of poor customer consent management and opt-in practices, which have led to 534 million personal data records to be compromised since 2005, according to The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

In the age of GDPR, decision makers will need to know about the data’s heritage and accuracy, which can be best provided through a central data catalog that helps with the data’s auditability, governance and accessibility. This catalog should have a unified access point allowing users to access any data they need to better inform their daily business tasks.

Data for All

While keeping information secure and reliable is a top priority, today’s IT leaders also need to understand they can no longer afford to be a gatekeeper to a company’s data treasure trove. Forward-thinking companies understand that everyone should have access to the corporate information they need to unlock insights that will drive the business forward. They understand there should be no restrictions on data volume, data availability, or access.

Because not everyone has a degree in data science, CIOs need to enable access to enterprise data lakes using a variety of easy-to-use, self-service applications and tools that provide data manipulation and analysis expertise to business users.  They also need to integrate intelligence into data management applications and workflows to help users better leverage advanced technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing.

Scores of data warehouse projects have failed because business users didn’t have access to the data they needed when they needed it nor did they have easy-to-use tools that helped turn that data into insight, which ultimately thwarted the widespread use of data by employees. CIOs seeking digital transformation through business user empowerment must be mindful of these previous pitfalls and navigate around them to be successful.

Future Proof Platform for New Technology Integration

The pace of technology innovation is accelerating and most companies admit they find it hard to keep up. Today’s organizations need to take advantage of the very latest cloud and big data technologies, including Apache Beam, Hadoop, Spark, Redshift, AWS Kinesis, and MS Azure, among others, to connect and process data at speed and scale.

When architecting an enterprise data strategy, CIOs need to think about selecting a platform that is flexible, open and can easily integrate with future technologies. Using an open source-based platform helps CIOs avoid lock-in with a single provider and the high resource expenses associated proprietary software and systems. It also helps ensure your IT backbone will continue to keep pace with rapidly evolving and emerging technologies because open source products are backed by a global development community that inspects, scrutinizes and most importantly, constantly improves their functionality.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that open source technologies have been endorsed and used by large corporate vendors –such as IBM, Microsoft and Google that are big players in Apache, Hadoop and Spark –and many open sourced technologies are backed with commercial support.

Keys to Digital Transformation Success

With visibility into all parts of a modern business, CIOs can unify business leaders and IT under a clear data roadmap, and be the catalyst for data-driven organizational changes that will help their companies remain competitive.

By ensuring data integrity, providing self-service tools and applications that can be accessed by all, and adopting flexible, future-proof platforms for development, CIOs will have a head start in achieving their digital transformation goals.

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