Companies are awash in data. CIOs have done a great job of building a hardware and software infrastructure that produces data on just about every part of operations.
But today this is merely table stakes. Just like we expect 100 percent IT uptime, today we also expect to never be without real-time information on our operations. However, now that everyone has this timely internal info, it’s no longer a competitive advantage. Good internal information is now a minimum requirement, insufficient for assuring success.
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Yet internal data generation (and analysis of that data) is where the vast majority of IT resources are spent. CIOs are too often focused on creating and maintaining an infrastructure that generates internal information that has declining value in a fast-changing world.
Competition today demands business leaders have a lot more information about their marketplaces, including information about customers’ use of technology, buying patterns and opinions, and about competitors’ changes in price, technology adoption, new products and distribution. Plus companies need information on regulations, global supply chains, commodity prices, economic growth, and so on. The list of external data critical for business decision-making is now longer than the list of important internal metrics.
The “I” in CIO is not for infrastructure management; it’s for information. Leading CIOs know they need to spend a lot more management time and IT resources on making sure that they can identify the most important external information for company decision making, obtain that information, track it, and put it into the hands of fellow C-level executives to make the right decisions.
Businesses today are fascinated by big data, yet external data brokers are often not part of the CIO’s network, and money for external data often is not in the CIO’s budget. This has to change because getting the full picture now requires augmenting internal data with external data to provide a better view of the environment in which the organization operates.
Today’s CIOs can be strategic CEO advisers by integrating internal and external data in ways that make the analysis derived from the data more valuable than the collection of data itself. CIOs should inform the leadership team about more than just how the organization operates by describing how it operates within the external market context of changing customer behaviors and a fast-moving competitive landscape.
Tomorrow’s best CIOs will create what-if scenarios and provide forecasts about what is likely to happen, not just report on the past. They will use external information to call attention to risks before operations are affected and introduce fresh ideas to help the organization fend off competition and adapt to market shifts based on both external trends and internal strengths.
Ultimately, they will use trend data to guide their fellow executives toward making the right bets, at the right time, for longevity and greater success.
Adam Hartung is CEO of Soparfilm Energy, a public speaker and an adviser on innovation.
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