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Silence on business analytics speaks volumes

I can think of two reasons people don’t talk about something. One is that the subject has no importance at all. The other reason is that it is so important people don’t want to share what they know. In the case of advanced business analytics, I can assure you, the latter reason is in play. Silence is golden, so to speak.

This was clear in a story I did this week on a snazzy hotel app deployed by the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. The free mobile app basically delivers round-the-clock service — a bottle of Dom Perignon, more shampoo — at the touch of an icon. IT Manager Eric Chao, the hotel’s point man on the mobile app, was happy to talk up the app’s front-end value: how it takes customer service to a new level, etc. But ask about the sophisticated analytics whirring on the backend that allow the hotel to figure out what a guest wants before he even knows it – and this reporter got the cold shoulder. The hotel PR squad flat out said no way.

“The app collects a lot of data,” was about all Chao could say. That, and it’s been “great for business.” Indeed. I have no doubt that the data collected contains information so valuable to the hotel that it’s not sharing it with anybody, never mind reporters.

Chao was not the only circumspect CIO I talked to this week. A CIO in the automotive industry I interviewed yesterday for an upcoming story on mobile BI stopped short when the topic of analytics came up. Routine analytics were handled in-house, he said, but the sophisticated stuff done by statisticians and data scientists—the secret sauce, the golden goose — that analytics was being outsourced. To whom? He couldn’t say, in fact, was prohibited from divulging that information to anyone outside the company.

My take on the silent treatment? If CIOs are not putting a lot of resources into advanced business analytics, they’re in trouble.

By the way, the same silence principle holds true for security too—in particular, app security, but shhhh that’s a post for another day.

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