Survey: Information Management a Priority for CIOs, But Elusive

In a new Accenture survey, CIOs say they are working to improve their strategic use of integrated business data for competitive advantage.

An enterprisewide information management strategy will be top of mind for CIOs looking to gain a competitive edge for their companies in years to come, according to a new Accenture survey of 162 CIOs.

The study found that:

  • 60 percent of CIOs surveyed say they are working to adopt an information management strategy to gain competitive advantage.
  • 75 percent of CIOs surveyed expect to have an information management strategy in place within three years. Data analytics will be an area of particular focus.
  • Integrating all types of data is a goal for most companies. While only 38 percent of respondents say they are partially integrated now, 75 percent list integration as their target.

Finding a way to integrate diverse information from many different repositories will be essential for CIOs looking to reap the benefits of highly managed information.

Accenture surveyed 162 CIOs in North America and Europe about IT investments, focusing specifically on information management strategies and technologies. Greg Todd, executive director of information management and business development at Accenture, said the survey conducted earlier in 2007 looked at how companies manage the core technology strategy areas typically associated with information management: business intelligence, data management and data architecture, enterprise management content and portals.

The report and survey released July 11, titled “Cultivating High Performance Through Information Management,” found that 75 percent of CIOs say they intend to have a solid information management strategy in place within the next three years. That expressed intention doesn’t mean respondents are ready to go just yet: 78 percent say their data analytics capabilities are not integrated with the data or with ways to report and analyze that data across their organizations.

Todd said the findings are a clear indication that information management will be a top priority for CIOs in the coming years.

Accenture found that the biggest driver behind an integrated approach to accessing and analyzing data is competitive differentiation. “Bringing information together in this way improves access to high-quality information for decision making, enables revenue enhancement opportunities and reduces costs,” says Todd. It can also help companies with their strategies for entering new markets, breeding innovation and better serving customers. More than half of respondents claim this as their reason for implementing an information management strategy.

Accenture has identified business analytics as a key IT strategy in the past. In a study published last year, which examined the role of enterprise systems in driving corporate value, Accenture found that high-performing businesses were five times more likely than low performers to list analytics as a key element of their strategy. Two-thirds of those high performers said they had significant analytical capabilities, compared to fewer than a quarter of low performers. Another 53 percent said they believed they were gaining a competitive advantage through capabilities associated with analytics.

However, the Accenture study released July 11 found that analytics is also an area in which many CIOs still aren’t meeting their goals. Only 40 percent of respondents are currently using BI to seek a competitive edge. However, the survey also revealed that 76 percent of CIOs surveyed will be investing in BI and data warehousing in the months to come and 57 percent see BI as a core component of competitive advantage in the near future.

Among the obstacles to reaping the rewards from BI in order to accomplish those goals and implement a comprehensive information management strategy are lack of funding and lack of confidence in data quality.

“Companies are inundated with a number of different repositories of information. Being able to find the right information that adds value to the decision-making process is becoming more of a challenge,” says Todd. He suggests CIOs focus on governance, the value and quality of their information, and managing how it is integrated. To that end, 75 percent of the CIOs surveyed intend to fully integrate their structured (database) and unstructured (e-mail, Web content, images) data within three years. Since CIOs see information as something that should engage the entire enterprise, it’s not surprising that an ideal information management strategy is executed in this type of environment.

“The value of integrating [structured and unstructured data] as part of an overall management strategy is critical to competitive advantage,” says Todd. “Integration gives companies an opportunity to analyze the full breadth of information in their organization.” It also helps users who are operating in what Accenture calls a “new breed of information democracy.” People increasingly need more information available to them in order to do their jobs; information integration allows for greater access to those resources.

Everyone can benefit from highly managed information, but no one solution fits all. “In a pharmaceutical company, compliance plays a large part in how you manage your information,” says Todd. “In the upstream sector of an energy or gas company, focusing on how you manage assets and being able to manage real-time information is more important. In the downstream, you might be more focused on customer behavior at the pump.”

Because strategy will differ depending on industry, and because of the sheer volume of information that companies have to sort through, Todd says that deciding how you want to manage your information up front and proper governance to make sure value is achieved are critical to the success of an information management strategy.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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