How Data Will Take the IT Role to the Next Level

by Jamie Brighton

Posted on 06-24-2019

Organ­i­sa­tions under­stand the impor­tance of hav­ing an ana­lyt­ics tool that gives them a com­plete under­stand­ing of their cus­tomers, and the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate those insights and act on them at-scale across the organ­i­sa­tion. Indeed, accord­ing to Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Trends 2019 report, the abil­i­ty to pri­ori­tise cus­tomer intel­li­gence and insights for a holis­tic cus­tomer view was a top three mar­ket­ing priority.

The chal­lenge for many brands is that the peo­ple who touch the data – data sci­en­tists – are often siloed with­in an organ­i­sa­tion. Those who could need to lever­age the data in mean­ing­ful ways, such as IT employ­ees, might not have access. Busi­ness­es grap­ple with scarce resources, against the need to analyse the incred­i­ble amount of data that is col­lect­ed – and the need for busi­ness insights to dri­ve effi­cien­cies and growth.

It’s clear that the data sci­en­tist role has become increas­ing­ly impor­tant for any brand look­ing to stay rel­e­vant. But as more data becomes read­i­ly avail­able, and brands are able to under­stand that full cus­tomer jour­ney, the focus will shift from data sci­en­tist to IT. The data sci­ence skillset is no longer impor­tant just for employ­ees that work with­in data, but also for any­one in the IT world – and it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the IT organ­i­sa­tion to shine.

Here are sev­en key trends that we see reshap­ing the world of data and IT:

  1. IT’s data estate will con­tin­ue to grow. As a stake­hold­er for all oth­er orgs, IT is the most log­i­cal group to have respon­si­bil­i­ty for break­ing down data silos and bring­ing every­thing togeth­er in one place for analy­sis and action. As IT organ­i­sa­tions look out­ward, they will find that dis­parate teams have a lot more cus­tomer, oper­a­tions, and trans­ac­tion­al data than they imag­ined. IT will need strong data strat­e­gy and gov­er­nance to bring all of these points together.
  2. IT is best posi­tioned to take the lead on issues of con­sumer pri­va­cy and data secu­ri­ty. As a tra­di­tion­al­ly gov­er­nance-ori­ent­ed organ­i­sa­tion, IT can bring much to the table to ensure that all oth­er teams are fol­low­ing both best prac­tices and legal require­ments around the col­lec­tion, stor­age, and use of cus­tomer data.
  3. CIOs should grab the bull by the horns and take own­er­ship of bring­ing togeth­er cus­tomer data. Ear­li­er this year, HBR report­ed that 72% of C‑level exec­u­tives said that they have yet to forge a data cul­ture, and 69% have not yet cre­at­ed a data-dri­ven organ­i­sa­tion. In many com­pa­nies, there is a vac­u­um of cen­tralised data lead­er­ship, often despite the efforts of a Chief Data Offi­cer. IT, with its tech­ni­cal apti­tude and focus on process, is best equipped to step into this lead­er­ship role.
  4. IT should become famil­iar with stake­hold­ers’ data needs and use cas­es. Your data strat­e­gy will not suc­ceed if stake­hold­ers do not believe their needs will be met by an IT effort to enable data-dri­ven deci­sion mak­ing. If marketing’s pri­or­i­ty is cross-chan­nel per­son­al­i­sa­tion using machine learn­ing mod­els to deter­mine next best offer, then IT must seek to under­stand and pri­ori­tise that use case against oth­er com­pa­ny pri­or­i­ties. Sim­ply toss­ing a bunch of data into a lake isn’t enough. IT’s approach should be based in a mul­ti-year view of what oth­er teams need to be able to do with data and the ROI that teams expect to achieve from these activ­i­ties; invest­ments should align with that view such that IT is head­ed in the same direc­tion as its stakeholders.
  5. The cus­tomer intel­li­gence rev­o­lu­tion posi­tions the IT organ­i­sa­tion to increase in val­ue. The cus­tomer intel­li­gence rev­o­lu­tion may sound like a mar­ket­ing- or prod­uct-led trend, but it may be the IT organ­i­sa­tion that has the most to gain. Bring all of the company’s data togeth­er in one place and facil­i­tat­ing report­ing, analy­sis, and insight puts the CIO square­ly at the front of estab­lish­ing a data-dri­ven cul­ture and improv­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Invest­ing in break­ing down data silos and tak­ing the lead on bring­ing peers to the table to design/implement a strong cor­po­rate data strat­e­gy is ful­ly in the CIO’s grasp, and will only raise the impor­tance and val­ue of the IT organisation.
  6. IT needs to ramp up its data sci­ence chops for data gov­er­nance as well as obtain­ing val­ue from com­bined data sets. While many IT orga­ni­za­tions pos­sess deep tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, the chal­lenge of bring­ing togeth­er mas­sive and com­plex data sets from a wide vari­ety of peer teams may require invest­ment in new skill sets. Data sci­ence is a lot more than machine learn­ing, although stake­hold­ers will require ML/AI help as well—it includes data wran­gling and data visu­al­i­sa­tion skill sets which may be short­er sup­ply in some IT organizations.
  7. Brands will increas­ing­ly move cus­tomer data to the cloud to take advan­tage of its scale and ser­vices. Five years ago, many brands swore they would nev­er move cus­tomer or oper­a­tions data to the cloud. This ret­i­cence was ground­ed in secu­ri­ty con­cerns and the inabil­i­ty of cloud ven­dors to solve cer­tain key use cas­es, lead­ing brands to won­der why they would both­er to move all of that data else­where. More recent­ly, cloud ven­dors have made huge leaps for­wards in address­ing both of these areas. This has includ­ed adding numer­ous ser­vices both to con­nect data to deci­sion-mak­ing and real-time action­ing both for inter­nal as well as cus­tomer-fac­ing use cas­es. It has also includ­ed enhanc­ing the secu­ri­ty of cus­tomer and key busi­ness data in the cloud through enhance­ments like shield­ed VMs and cre­den­tial man­age­ment tools. While there may still be some advan­tages to an on-premise data store, these are dwin­dling as cloud ven­dors see the val­ue of secur­ing and scal­ing data for brands.

Data is becom­ing more impor­tant than ever. As com­pa­nies strug­gles to mobilise their siloed organ­i­sa­tions around a com­mon focus on cus­tomer intel­li­gence, it’s IT’s moment to shine. The data rev­o­lu­tion is call­ing on busi­ness to take own­er­ship of data to unlock its full val­ue, and IT is per­fect­ly placed to rise up to the task.

Topics: Digital Transformation, data, Digital Trends 2019, IT, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA