IT, analytics & the speed of knowledge


I recently spent some time with Eric Williams, former Executive Vice President and CIO of Catalina Marketing, to prepare for a whitepaper that he is writing on IT, analytics, innovation and business value. As always with Eric, it was a fascinating discussion so I thought I would blog about some of the interesting quotes from that discussion. 

  • “speed of knowledge is the differentiator of the decade” – Companies are inundated with data, they have collected or are generating data from many different sources, but until you turn that data into knowledge such that you can respond to competition, adjust to market trends, etc., it’s just data.
  • “insights are between information and knowledge” – Insights are what you can find out from your data, but gaining insight doesn’t necessarily mean that you will respond or take action. When you relate that insight into what you are doing, what the competition is doing, what the market needs, etc., that transforms the insight into knowledge, knowledge that can drive action. 
  • “the consumer is at the center” – With the advent of social media, it’s all about the consume being at the center. Facebook is about me, Twitter is about me… based on this experience, people want things that are delivered to them that are personal. They need a way to cut through the inundation of information so that it is synthesized to what they need. People gravitate to companies that do this effectively. 
  • “it’s predicting consumer desire before the product even exists” – Although targeting is important, it’s not just targeting, it’s the ability to predict consumer desire before the product is introduced. It’s about using predictive analytics to use data that you have about customers, customer segments, etc., to predict whether the consumer will find interest in your product. And to find the most efficient approach to find the and target the correct market segment. 
  • “IT teams need to provide solutions that deliver data faster” – First of all, IT is in a unique position to be a business driver leveraging analytics at the core. Organizations have finance, logistics, sales, marketing, etc., each with their own unique responsibility, but it’s IT that is an enabler across all of these functions. But IT needs to resist the urge to drive things from a technology perspective. While technologies like the cloud, Hadoop, etc., are interesting, IT needs to allow the business goal or requirement to drive the right technology. It’s about enabling knowledge vs. delivering technology.

Eric provided some actionable guidance based on his experience at Catalina, where Catalina helped organizations understand what was happening with their products in the market. Catalina helped these organizations create marketing campaigns that improved their position in the market. Eric talked about the fact that while critical, tools like BI, reporting, OLAP, ROLAP, etc., are informational in nature vs. knowledge based. That ultimately it is about the predictive aspects of the consumer, especially in the “me” generation, where people want things that are appropriate to them, that organizations need to cut through the noise and identify specific targets and deliver a personalized message to that market. It’s about tailoring services, products and technologies to meet their individual need, to meet the desires of the consumer. 

It’s all about the speed of knowledge and the impact on the business.


About Author

Mark Troester

IT / CIO Thought Leader & Strategist

Mark Troester is the IT / CIO Thought Leader & Strategist for SAS. He oversees the company’s market strategy efforts for information management and for the overall CIO and IT vision. He began his career in IT and has worked in product management and product marketing for a number of Silicon Valley start-ups and established software companies. Twitter @mtroester


  1. "It’s all about the speed of knowledge and the impact on the business."

    I agree but how do you get to that point? How can I take my small business and make it like Google and Facebook in reference to their speed and innovative qualities.

    data cleansing - data cleansing

    • Eric Williams on

      Hi Peter,

      First, you are not going to be a Facebook or Google overnight. Almost every company that I have helped have data at their disposal, but they are challenged to turn that into information and use it in their business to truly gain knowledge. This does not mean that you have to provide realtime information - it might be a simple as providing the information at all.

      At Catalina, we worked over almost 10 years, to get to realtime solutions, but we saw many benefits with the simple access to some of the data that was in Excel spreadsheets around the organization.

      Find the area in your company that someone says "Do you know how much more I could sell, if I only knew ?" You will be amazed how many people will tell you how they can make a significant difference to the business if they only had access to some basic insights.

  2. For the last bullet point in the article ( “IT teams need to provide solutions that deliver data faster” ), usually IT is a back-office and a business overhead to a typical organization. C-suite leaders tend not to give priority, authority and budget to IT department within their organization. Till this happens, IT won't be in a position to be a business driver.

    • Mark Troester

      Hello Divyesh -

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that in some organizations IT is still seen as a back-office, cost oriented function. But I see this starting to change and organizations that take a more strategic approach to IT can achieve competitive advantage. I also believe that IT leadership is largely responsible for driving that change - they can do this by managing IT as a business, by ensuring that their resources are completely tied in and aligned with the business, and by delivering game changing applications and information sources to the business. And since I am a big believer in analtyics, I believe that analytics can be an important part of that strategy.


    • Eric Williams on

      I understand your comments and concerns; however, if IT continues to take the "poor pitiful me" approach, then they will never get a seat at the table. At Catalina, I drove the idea that IT could provide solutions that added revenue to the top-line, not just cost savings to the bottom-line. Management will listen when you offer to increase sales - the challenge is to find that value point that you and your team can deliver (and I would propose that it is in information solutions) - and then make it happen.

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