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Guest View: Aligning technology and business in the Age of Big Data Analytics: Who’s responsible?

Shanmugar Sunthar, Chief Technology Officer, SAS Singapore | May 28, 2014
Organizations have to align technology and business departments to answer a larger question: How can we get the most value from data across the enterprise?

Data-driven decisions have always been core to business success. Today, companies that effectively harness their growing volume of data and employ advanced analytics, make better and faster business decisions that provide them with a competitive edge, and ultimately impact the bottom-line.

A recent Bain and Company study[1] found that companies with the most advanced analytics capabilities outperform competitors by wide margins. The leaders are twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries; are five times as likely to make decisions much faster than market peers; and three times as likely to execute decisions as intended.

Yet, while most business units within an organization see big data's role in delivering insights as critical to success, they often place the responsibility for data solely in the hands of IT, and are surprisingly disconnected from it.

On the other hand, in some organizations, the divide between business and IT groups lead to confusion over "who's in charge" of an organization's information assets. The fight for control - or, flight from responsibility, in some cases - leads to a reactive data management approach that only focuses on existing problems without anticipating future demands, including the growing volumes of data.

This traditional arrangement, where analytics is developed and used in business silos, is inefficient and inconsistent. Several departments will reinvent the wheel, rarely will they share that wheel, and none of them is likely to develop a steering wheel designed to drive the entire vehicle - the enterprise.

If data is so crucial to business success, then the easy conclusion is that business needs to work better with IT - and that the IT team should better understand the business questions and context their work is addressing. Organizations have to align technology and business departments to answer a larger question: How can we get the most value from data across the enterprise?

Steps to an IT-Aware Business and Business-Aware IT

1.       Make data responsibility core to the business. Get business units to understand their role in data from start to finish. Establish a data policy that dictates that data management and data quality are included in executive performance measures.

2.       Build bridges between the business and IT. Business people need to understand IT, and IT needs to understand the business. IT can play a valuable role in determining the right technology options for the business unit's purposes, but they need to be involved early in strategic and proactive planning discussions with the business. By the same token, business users need to be technology-aware. They are not going to understand the nuts and bolts of the IT architecture, but they should understand how the systems connect and how they work. Consider designating a cross-functional analyst or advocate to help bridge the gap. At SAS, a new integration analyst position - part of the IT organization - brings both technical expertise and business acumen to the table.


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