Gartner summit: Get a CDO and other tips for achieving data-centricity

Is your organization suffering from data analytics scarcity? This week's Gartner summit on data and analytics offers a path to abundance. Also: WikiLeaks releases CIA hacking files.

We're currently living in an era of data analytics scarcity, according to analysts at this week's Gartner Data and Analytics Summit, an annual meeting of IT and analytics professionals.

In other words, while we have an abundance of data -- perhaps too much -- there is a scarcity of insight and value derived from that data. That means one thing: IT leaders have a lot of work to do.

"Expectations are sky high," said Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel. "Your organization is expecting you to deliver on an expanded vision of data and analytics to drive its digital business strategy."

No pressure, right?

Schlegel and his Gartner colleagues believe that the world of data and analytics will have an even bigger impact on our society over the next 20 years than the internet has had in the last 20. They envision a future of analytics abundance in which data insights are applied to every process and every decision in every profession. The possibilities, they say, are practically limitless (the theme of the Gartner summit).

But first, IT leaders and business leaders need to work together to turn our current data analytics scarcity into abundance. During the opening keynote, Schlegel and Debra Logan, a Gartner vice president and fellow, offered advice for achieving that: initiate an organizational restructuring, change the decision-making culture and harness emerging technology.

It's time for a CDO

IT leadership is becoming overwhelmed by the onslaught of data streaming in from new sources, like IoT-enabled devices, said Logan. The solution lies in a reorganization of organizational leadership, starting with the establishment of new leaders -- chiefly, the chief data officer (CDO).

"We need CDOs to create a vision for the abundant use of data in their organizations," Logan said. "[The CDO's] job is leading the organizational change required to create and sustain enterprise-wide data analytics capabilities."

Not only did Logan and Schlegel encourage attendees to consider the role as a possible next career step, several sessions at the Gartner summit focused on how to become a CDO and how to succeed as a CDO.

It's clear this role is garnering a lot of attention. So, what exactly is expected of CDOs? According to Logan, in order to succeed CDOs must:

  • Drive business outcomes with data
  • Foster data-related cultural change
  • Gauge the ethical implications of data management

In Gartner's recent CDO survey, 67% of participants stated that their top priority as CDO was to be a champion and change agent within their organization; 61% said they were leading the effort to ensure that data analytics are integrated in the overall data and business strategy. But, as with many IT prerogatives, how these goals are achieved -- and who among the IT chiefs ends up shaping business strategy -- is not set in stone.

"The relationship between the CDO and the CIO will remain crucial," said Jamie Popkin, a Gartner vice president and fellow. "Strategy development, decision-making power and funding will be sources of contention between IT leaders and the office of the CDO, as the role of the CDO becomes more broadly established."

Organizational restructuring doesn't stop with the addition of the CDO position to the executive ranks. Logan also stressed to IT leaders the importance of a distributed organizational model.

"Don't create an overly centralized organizational model," she said. "Analytics are pervasive; they're everywhere, in every department. Every process needs to use data to make decisions. That means that the skills and technology must also be distributed."

If we rely on people only at the top of the data hierarchy, we're never going to reach data analytics abundance, Schlegel said, sounding a familiar call: IT leaders need to implement tools and processes to democratize data analytics. They need to help their companies turn information consumers (employees) into active and data literate users who can analyze data and drive new insights from that data.

Time will tell, no doubt, whether data democracy is liberating or a job security threat for data analytics experts.

Now to the other two factors that Gartner believes will help end our current data scarcity: fostering a data-driven culture and taking advantage of emerging tech.  

Business decisions should have a digital trail

The apotheosis of a true digital organization, according to Gartner, is one in which every process and decision is driven by data insights. Companies may tell themselves selves that they are data-centric, but are they really? The short answer: no. Based on Gartner's client interactions, the vast majority of data and analytics programs don't directly impact the decisions we make; the infamous "gut feeling" still often has the final say.

"We fool ourselves into thinking we're making empirical decisions because we looked at the data, but, in reality, we are falling victim to a long list of cognitive biases: anchoring, group think, confirmation bias, halo effect, loss aversion," said Schlegel. "Ironically, decision making is too often the last business process to be digitized."

There is usually no digital trace of how decisions are made, Schlegel said. He advises IT leaders to promote a new decision-making culture in which decisions made at your organization, along with being fully data-driven, are logged and tracked over time.

To the tech

Finally, IT organization must take advantage of emerging technology, the big one being machine learning. According to Logan, 10 years from now it'll be hard to find an application that doesn't use machine learning, so bulk up.

Bots are already arriving, but even before bots we'll see several new advanced analytics technologies, like natural language question and answer and natural language generation, that will allow us to tap massive amounts of insights from data that would otherwise go unnoticed, said Schlegel at the Gartner summit.

Automation of the analytics workflow is coming, with Gartner predicting that by 2019, 50% of analytics queries will be generated using search, natural-language query or voice, or will be autogenerated.

Infrastructures need an update too, says Logan.

"Traditional infrastructures are starting to break down in the face of multi-structured data, massive volumes of data, streams of data from things and, most importantly, the need to quickly adapt to change," she said.

That's where data virtualization comes in, she says. Garter forecasts that by 2018, organizations with data virtualization capabilities will spend 40% less than organizations without those capabilities.

CIO news roundup for week of March 6

The Gartner summit on data and analytics wasn't the only tech game in town this week:

WikiLeaks unloads alleged CIA hacking files. Wikileaks on Tuesday released thousands of pages detailing how the CIA breaks into consumer devices such as smartphones and televisions. The release includes claims that the CIA and other intelligence services have compromised both Apple and Android smartphones by bypassing encryption on services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. Both Apple and Google responded quickly to the allegations, saying the vulnerabilities are out of date: In an official statement, Apple said that "many of the issues" detailed in the leaked documents have been addressed in updated iOS versions. Heather Adkins, Google's director of information security and privacy, said in a statement to CNET that after reviewing the documents, they are "confident that security updates and protections in both Chrome and Android already shield users from many of these alleged vulnerabilities." Meanwhile, Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, argued that the claim the CIA bypassed Signal and WhatsApp is "misleading." WikiLeaks said this week's document dump is only the first installment in a larger collection of secret CIA material.

IBM targets quantum computing. IBM has set its sights on its next potential business opportunity: This week the company announced a new division called IBM Q that aims to build universal, commercially available quantum computing systems. These systems are based on the laws of quantum mechanics, and IBM claims they could create breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, financial services and artificial intelligence. "We envision IBM Q systems working in concert with our portfolio of classical high-performance systems to address problems that are currently unsolvable, but hold tremendous untapped value," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems, in a press release. In other news from Big Blue, IBM announced it would partner with Inc. on artificial-intelligence technologies. The companies will offer integrated AI services that weave together the capabilities of IBM's Watson with Salesforce's sales-oriented Einstein technology.

Google, SAP announce cloud partnership. Under a new partnership announced this week at the Google Cloud Next conference, SAP customers will be able to run SAP's big business applications on the Google Cloud Platform. Germany-based SAP, Europe's largest technology firm, will also offer Google's suite of web-based desktop apps to its users. The SAP support is a critical move for Google to address enterprise needs, Jason Stowe, CEO of Cycle Computing LLC, told SearchCloudComputing. "When I talk to CIOs [about cloud], SAP in particular is first and foremost on people's minds," Stowe said. In other news from the Cloud Next conference, the search giant announced the launch of Video Intelligence API, a machine learning application program interface that automatically recognizes objects in videos and makes them searchable.

Senior site editor Ben Cole contributed to this week's news roundup.

Next Steps

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on the AWS outagethe rise of 5G wireless technology and the IoT explosion.

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