Encouraging Users to Embrace Big Business Data

How CIOs are bringing non-IT staff into the information worker’s world

Scenario: Managing change across a newly information-based company

Christian Anschuetz, CIO, Underwriters Laboratories

We are a storied nonprofit brand. Our seal is on more than 26 billion products in more than 100 countries, and the culture that enables the processes behind this service is entrenched. But now we are moving into a new era as a for-profit company that will be driven by focusing on both customers and products, and on providing valuable information. We need all of our 9,000-plus employees to become information workers who know how to work with the vast amounts of data we hold and who are comfortable with having the discretion to use it. That requires fundamental changes.

The company brought me in to modernize not just the technology but also how we use it and think about it. Many people are attached to their paper, even when they are active users of smartphones and laptops. Earlier this year, I gave the board iPads and took away their paper. Within months, they were using the tablets to share information and create value in ways they couldn’t before. The employee base is much larger, and I can’t focus one-on-one there. So I’ve instituted a policy that says digital literacy must be part of promotion requirements companywide. I‘ve also started explaining that technology’s role is to amplify individuals’ abilities. But this is going to be a long road.

Advice: Understand the Effect on the Individual

Wayne Shurts, CIO, Supervalu

I distinguish the traditional change management we use for new enterprise applications such as ERP from the type we use for new technologies, where how to use them in daily operations is far less clear. When we implement a new enterprise system, we take great care to document every single change—big or small—resulting from the new system: a gap analysis of the as-is and to-be business process for each end user. I am surprised by how many people overlook that step. Not all users are equal, so it makes no sense to stick them in a room with an instructor for a day when a simple laminated user guide would suffice (or vice versa). Understanding the extent and degree of change for each employee and tailoring our rollout plans accordingly is the whole ball game.

We take the opposite change-management approach for technology we are just beginning to explore. Recently, we gave all our store managers iPads and told them, essentially, to have fun: no usage restrictions. We paired them up with someone in IT to help them get comfortable with the hardware and later to catalog how the technology was being used. Our decision to start with store managers—as opposed to some back-office function—was a deliberate one. How these folks work and interact with our customers is critical to the success of each store. The lessons learned and the value these devices provide have a direct link to the company’s bottom line, which creates buy-in for future IT investment.

Advice: Sell Information as a Problem solver

Twila Day, CIO, SYSCO

Our goal is to provide predictive analytics beyond traditional performance reporting, which provides real insight for end users—less data and more meaning. Getting the business comfortable using this kind of business intelligence has little to do with technology and everything to do with understanding how to use the underlying data. In other words, what is the business problem worth solving and what information do we need to solve it? The role of IT in this case is one of analytics evangelist. We hear a lot of analytics success stories from external sources, and we vet these ideas for business impact and technology feasibility. Our business liaisons have a deep understanding of the business’s strategic objectives and will often pitch relevant analytics projects—with the support of our data warehouse team—to specific business areas.

We target business sponsors who are analytical first and technology-savvy second, if at all. We have found that analytics-minded people are better able to sell the project to their colleagues than technologists. We also target those business areas where the value of data and reporting is well understood. Finance is an obvious choice, but sales and marketing are equally (and unexpectedly) receptive because they deal with real data and can see the fruits of their analytics labor in a short time. Once we had a few internal success stories, we were able prove the value of business analytics technology to other parts of the business that had been reluctant to embrace the idea.

Anschuetz, Shurts and Day are all members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO's publisher. To learn more, visit council.cio.com.


This story, "Encouraging Users to Embrace Big Business Data" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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