Big Value from Big Data

How CIOs are expanding the benefits that business intelligence can bring the enterprise.

By
Fri, September 28, 2012

CIO

Giving Power to Clients

Scott Henry, Executive VP and CIO, Arbitron

As a consumer research and ratings company, Arbitron is all about data. We collect it, we identify market trends with it, we allow others to analyze it, and more. So our big data efforts span everything we do.

Internally, we have much the same focus as everyone else--seeking to improve business processes and enable better decisions. But our big push now is providing analytics tools for external clients. The software services that we provide to radio stations, media groups, advertisers and marketing firms are designed to help them run better as profitable companies--for example, helping stations determine which programming works best for which time blocks and locations, or helping advertisers identify the optimal times and places to get their message out. Our primary service has been to give both groups audience information in fairly static reports that our custom research group develops based on their individual needs. Data analytics allows us to also deliver a dashboard that they can use to manipulate and query the data however they want. As this technology improves and we learn how to use it internally, we are then able to turn around and continuously enhance the value we give our clients.

Redefining Value

Dave Zodikoff, CIO, Ambrose Employer Group

I've been working with big data in some form for almost 25 years, starting with building data warehouses and reports at Citicorp. The thing I've learned above all else is that you really need to understand the culture of your organization and how the information is going to be used. Sit down with the folks who will be consuming the information and ask what they need, not what they think IT could do.

When I was at Whole Foods, it took two full meetings to push that idea through. We had data on thousands of stock items, purchases and more, and everyone had ideas for how technology was supposed to get the most out of that data. But once we got the store directors to think about what they really wanted, we found they didn't want reports with numbers, they wanted to see comparisons and be able to choose what stores and products would be compared. That was a revelation.

That success is why I'm now here at Ambrose. They brought me in specifically because the company's relationships with clients is our lifeblood. We serve as their human resources and financial departments, sitting in-house as employees of those companies in nearly every way, and we can't force tools or reports down their throats simply because we think that information will be good for them. I'm going through those same conversations now to define need, and I am confident we will create real value for everyone.

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