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Why CIOs must become data stewards

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CIO

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By becoming a data steward, you set the business up to deliver better products and the best possible customer experience.

Data – and extracting value from it – has become the fuel of digital transformation. The insights in data can tell you what your customers need or desire, and how they want to receive it. They can help you optimize sales, manufacturing, and distribution, or any other aspect of your business operations. With the right data and insights, you can discover new opportunities and potential unseen risks, or develop new products, services, and business models.

Yet not every business is taking full advantage. In fact, the analysts at IDC have identified two distinct enterprise profiles for this era: the digital achievers, who “have been able to successfully move to more data-centric business models and are flourishing” and the digital laggards, who “have not (and as a result are experiencing significant challenges in terms of important business metrics like revenue growth).” Where the achievers are harnessing hybrid cloud strategies, new storage technologies, analytics, AI, and automation, the laggards are falling behind in their data-driven strategy. That’s a problem when, as Forrester predicts, companies mastering a data-centric approach could collectively earn a global revenue upward of $1.8 trillion by the end of next year.

This makes it crucial that CIOs start thinking of themselves as data stewards, getting actively involved in data sourcing, processing, and governance, and helping ensure that data drives IT and business strategy going forward.

What does this mean? First, it means gathering the right data, and that starts with creating an inventory of all the data produced and stored within the business. Who and what is producing it? Where is it used? Where is it stored? Once you understand this, you can start to align the data with your business objectives and consider what value it might hold.

McKinsey has suggested getting creative about data sources, too, bringing in data from social media and other unstructured forms of data, along with data from IoT sensors and monitored processes, or even local news reports and weather forecasts. These sources can help you build the bigger picture.

Breaking down troublesome data silos

The next step is to bring your data together in a way that avoids data silos, which not only waste storage space but prevent you getting a more detailed view of your business and its customers. By allowing old, outdated data to lie around, silos can also impact your data accuracy, or hamper your efforts to deliver a better customer experience. Silos are hard to break down, but it can be done by moving data to central repositories, like a Microsoft Azure Data Lake, and by finding data platforms that encourage cross-team collaboration and cross-application integrations. For example, the Adobe Experience Platform provides mechanisms by which enterprises can combine data from multiple channels, repositories, and sources. It can then clean it and refine it, enrich it with non-structured data sources, and use it to create that 360-degree customer view.

Once data is centralized, it’s also easier to harness its power across the business, using analytics and intelligence to mine transform it into insight. You can then set up applications and dashboards to spread these insights throughout the enterprise, using tools and services like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Microsoft Power BI. What’s more, consolidating your data also helps you protect it. The more you audit, the more you centralize and orchestrate, the simpler it becomes to implement robust and consistent access controls and put appropriate tools and policies in place.

By becoming a data steward and developing the structures and systems to support use of data, you set the business up to deliver better products and the best possible customer experience. And while some CIOs might argue that data stewardship isn’t in their job description, empowering the business to work better through IT should be. Why not take control?

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