You’ve heard the old adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and its corollary, “Without measurement, everything is a guessing game.” No executive wants to be in the position of guessing how his or her business unit is doing.
Thus, the business world has entered a new era where everything – from websites and retail floors to automobiles and manufacturing lines and more – is being “instrumented” or “sensorized” to capture every possible bit of measurement data for intimate analysis. This trend has implications for your role as the CIO and what your constituents are expecting of you now.
The CIO’s role used to be about enabling the business by providing stable and secure infrastructure and applications at a reasonable cost. Just keep everything tuned up and running well so that business can carry on and your job is safe. But those responsibilities have now largely shifted to cloud providers, which is good because now you can devote yourself to delivering higher value to your internal customers.
Today, what your employees need from you is help finding actionable insights in the vast amount of data coursing through your company’s measurement systems, and the ability to act on those insights while they still matter.
That said, here are five CIO imperatives in this new era of instrumentation where everything in business is being measured and analyzed.
1. Focus on your constituents’ revenue-producing activities
These business leaders are concerned about bringing in more customers, generating more revenue, creating deeper loyalty to the brand, and expanding to new markets. You need to help them with those goals to maintain your relevance. If you can’t help them, they will find someone outside the company who can. Putting this in the context of information technology, you need to create systems to collect, manage, analyze and act on the measurement data that ultimately can help your employees produce revenue.
2. Provide real insights and not just reports
Business leaders are already overwhelmed with reports, with little time to read and interpret them. Instead, providing them insight into what the data says will give them better bang for the buck; i.e., find the signal in all the noise. The system you create should be able to provide meaningful insight that will help achieve their goals. This means providing systems and tooling that does machine learning, anomaly detection, and analytics.
3. Create systems that allow constituents to act while it still matters
Your internal customers need to gain their insights in real-time (or at least near-real-time) so they can act on them before an opportunity is lost. An acquaintance told me a story about shopping for shoes on a website. She found exactly what she wanted and put the shoes in her online shopping cart. She created an account and was ready to make the purchase. Before she could press the “Buy Now” button, the website hung, displaying a spinning dial. This buyer waited a few minutes, and when the application didn’t respond, she shut it down and left the shoes in the cart. Hours later the merchant sent an email saying, “You left something in your cart!” but by this time the customer had lost all interest in buying shoes from that merchant and ended up purchasing from a competing website. The sale was lost.
In an ideal world, a manager could be alerted that, based on a performance measurement, the website is hung. With this insight, the web manager could start a chat bot to converse with the buyer who is stuck in limbo to let her know of the issue and to conclude the sale over a different channel, perhaps over the phone. This keeps the customer in the buying mood and demonstrates good customer service—and hopefully keeps the sale.
4. Invest in systems with the flexibility to grow and evolve
“Measure everything” is the way of the future. It is a “must do” for all competitive businesses. So, plan to create flexible and scalable systems that can accommodate more metrics, more events, more customers and more analytics to meet evolving business requirements. New workloads of business metrics, system metrics and sensor data will entail having to deploy new IT architectural components that can handle these workloads. The adage of use the “right tool for the job” comes to mind, but since not everything is a nail don’t try to use old infrastructure on new problems.
5. Enable your company to be a data-driven business
Business leaders can’t make the right decisions without sufficient data, information and insights. Create an IT organization and an infrastructure that allows the company to be data-driven in real-time. As one of my customers told me, the way companies used to succeed was on luck and intuition, but in today’s world they can get the data they need to make informed decisions. There is no need to guess which is the most profitable customer type, for instance, we now have the means of knowing based on the data we are capturing.
Your role as CIO in this new era is to become much more of a business partner, enabling your constituents to make better decisions and take meaningful actions that all filter up to a bigger bottom line.