by Edward Qualtrough

Channel 4 and CIOs on keys to Big Data success

Jul 11, 20133 mins
IT LeadershipIT StrategyMedia and Entertainment Industry

Businesses will only gain opportunities from Big Data if their organisation has the talent, and the implementation of data analytics is worthless if organisations cannot convince customers it is protecting their data and has the customer’s interests at heart – according to two leading CIOs.

Channel 4 CIO Kevin Gallagherand David Jack, CIO at, discussed Big Data strategy and security at the Economist’s CIO Forum, with Jack playing down the buzzword hype and arguing that the success lies in the skill sets of employees able to interpret the data.

“Big Data’s really old news, nobody cares anymore,” said Jack.

Read David Jack’s CIO 100 profile here

“We all have lots of data. You could argue that the accessibility of data is becoming democratised. You can store, access and analyse huge quantities of data which were unfeasible in the past.

“What we’re seeing is that the battlefield is not technology. That’s a pain for me because I’m a CIO – the battlefield is really the analytics and not necessarily the analytics tools; it’s the access to talent and being able to move faster than each of my competitors.”

Channel 4’s Gallagher, also in the 2013 CIO 100, said that having a coherent data strategy wasn’t just important for improving Channel 4’s operations, but was in fact now ingrained in everything the channel did.

He said: “It’s not just the way we do business that’s changing, but the very essence of our business.

“We think that by knowing the viewer better we can make our product better, we can market to them better – making more money through advertising, and also make better television.

“But there’s no blueprint for doing Big Data, although you do need a roadmap and you need to be agile.”

Both CIOs agreed that security was integral to their programmes, explaining their customers and brands were too important to risk either a leak of personal details, or selling data sets to increasing amounts of third parties to improve shareholder value.

Gallagher said: “Big Data brings a lot of opportunity for CIOs, but it’s also a big responsibility.

“At the centre of it all is privacy and security. Once you start taking people’s personal data you’re entering a contract with them, but you’re saying that through their personal data you’re going to give them value if they give you trust.

“But we’re not trying to hide behind small print or a tickbox of cookies and compliance; we want people to understand our side of the bargain.”

Jack drew comparisons between Gallagher’s experiences and his own in the rail retail industry.

“Data brings super powers,” he added. “But with that power comes responsibility as well, since we’re essentially the cloud for the rail industry.

“We have this fantastic resource of data for which we feel very responsible. We have lots of data and if we abuse this, our customers will punish us. But if we exploit it well and find the right value product then our customers keep coming back.

“We’ve got a trusted brand and risking that by selling our data to third parties just isn’t worth it and isn’t part of our core business.

“But it’s the same whether the consumer is watching TV or buying a rail ticket. If you use data well you get rewarded, but if you use it badly you get punished,” Jack warned.