Big data might be a term that is beloved by marketing folk but it is starting to lose its lustre at an executive level. Analysts Gartner says just 11 per cent of executives describe their investments in big data as being as important, or more important, than other IT initiatives — and 46 per cent believe they are less important.
Too many big data projects are built with ad-hoc technologies in mind, rather than production-level reliability, the analysts warn. But big data, despite the marketing hype, still matters: a tight grip on information can help organisations create competitive differentiation. And CIOs can be key to helping organisations turn big data into business insight.
1. Get governance and security right first time
Information security is a core concern for businesses looking to invest in big data. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is due to come into force on 25 May 2018 and will see companies fined up to 4 per cent of their global turnover for breaches. IT leaders looking to assure c-suite peers about the importance of big data must pay attention to policies and procedures.
Camden Council interim CIO Omid Shiraji says managers within his team are thinking carefully about what GDPR means for the organisation itself and the citizens it serves. The key, says Shiraji, is to ensure that GDPR acts as a mechanism to support change, rather than as an additional layer of bureaucracy.
“I want to minimise the impact on our ability to do things,” he says. “Regulations can often be security-first rather than customer-first. There are principles in GDPR that we have to adopt, but we also have to figure out how to make the rules work for our citizens. And there isn’t much time for CIOs and their organisations to work out how to make the most of GDPR.”
It is sentiment that resonates with Tim Holman, chief executive and founder of cybersecurity consultancy 2-sec. He says CIOs must focus on data governance and GDPR as a matter of urgency. “Big data is called big for a reason — there’s lots of it, so IT leaders have got to proceed with care,” he says.
“The industry is predicting an exponential increase in the storage of data, far beyond the point of anyone being able to sensibly use and secure it. Whilst statistical analysis of big data can be great for businesses and help them work out trends and where they should be next, any impact on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data can be disastrous.”
Interim CIO Christian McMahon, who is managing director at transformation specialist three25, says too many firms still ignore the power of the information they hold. “I have always believed big data is useless until you have the tools or knowledge to find strategic or operational nuggets within it,” he says.