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Big data without the big headaches: How to get your strategy right

http://www.zdnet.com/article/big-data-without-the-big-headaches-how-to-get-your-strategy-right/

Big data is big business: analyst Gartner says the amount of chief data officers (CDOs) being appointed by major organisations rose from 400 in 2014 to 1,000 in 2015. The analyst predicts 90 per cent of large companies will have a CDO by 2019.

Such CDOs can help firms to focus on the value of analytical information. But all organisations — with or without the appointment of a CDO — must find ways to demonstrate the value of big data, and that job often falls to the CIO.

So when it comes to setting a big data strategy, what is the role of the CIO and how can he or she help the rest of the organisation to make the most of their information? ZDNet speaks to the experts and discovers best practice advice.

1. Get access to the right kind of talent

The first thing to recognise, says Camden Council interim CIO Omid Shiraji, is that the demand for information management is only going in one direction: up. One coping strategy is to draw on external talent.

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“As a CIO, you’ll never know everything about data,” he says. “But you’ll have to make sure you surround yourself with people who do. CIOs will need to recognise the talent, to relate those skills to the broader organisation and to create an environment to allow smart people to be successful.”

The focus on analytics has a knock-on effect on the labour market. Demand for big data specialists is set to rise 160 per cent through to 2020, according to SAS and the Tech Partnership. Estimates suggest there will be around 56,000 job opportunities per annum by the end of the decade.

Finding great analysts, however, is just the starting point. Firms must be careful to ensure the insight they create is untainted. Andrew Marks, former CIO and now the UK and Ireland managing director for energy in Accenture Technology Strategy, raises the issue of data specialists being affected by confirmation bias.

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“Such people only look for patterns they expect to see,” he says, suggesting some scientists look to fit information to an expected model. “It’s important to understand that access to lots of eyes can produce different results. Big data gives businesses the opportunity to look at an issue from many more viewpoints than was possible in the past.”

2. Prove the value of big data to the business

A great data strategy, therefore, is crucial. Firms need to think very carefully about how they integrate data sources and how they make sense of the relationships that emerge through analysis. IT leaders will play a crucial role, as the CIO’s experience in leading big business intelligence projects means he or she is often rightly viewed as the technology expert within the business.

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