Overcoming the IT-Business Divide in an era of big data, Part 3


In the first part of this series, I recapped several key recent trends as they related to the IT-business divide. In short, thanks to the rises of cloud computing, big data and BYOD, IT is (generally speaking) less equipped than ever to act as the gatekeeper of enterprise data. In part two, I described how big data means that IT needs to act as a facilitator.

So where does that leave us – and how do we put a nail in its coffin once and for all?

There's no simple solution for solving the divide in an era of big data, but let me suggest three not-so-dangerous ideas.

End the debate once and for all

For two reasons, it's time to once and for all disavow ourselves of the notion that IT "owns" enterprise data. First, the single biggest argument for line-of-business (LOB) ownership of data is that it’s not IT’s data to begin with. Period. If that were true ten years ago, it's doubly true today.

Second, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, much of what we affectionately call big data doesn't even belong to enterprises in the first place. Riddle me this: If IT shouldn't be responsible for the integrity and quality of customer, employee and product data, then how can it possibly be accountable for externally generated data on Twitter, LinkedIn and the like? Put differently: with big data, no one is "in charge" – especially IT.

Tread lightly with the CDO

To cope with the explosion of data and its increasing importance in the business world, many organizations have appointed Chief Data Officers. I'm not opposed to the CDO position per se, but it's essential to manage expectations here. I worry that many LOB employees now believe that enterprise data is the job of the "data department." In this manner, the CDO merely supplants the CIO as the de facto king or queen of enterprise data.

What's more, the notion that an organization can only unlock the power of data by formalizing the CDO position is utter hogwash. Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google are just a few examples of companies that do amazing things with structured and unstructured information, all without employing proper CDOs, at least according to LinkedIn last time I checked.

Go Agile

Embracing Agile software development methods represents another really good starting point. Why wait until the house is completely built before moving in? Why not walk around during construction and turn on the lights first? The benefits can be significant. For example, Comcast claims that it realized savings of more than $100M by eschewing Waterfall-based development and deployment methods.

"Going Agile" may entail creating a trendy new department such as DevOps, but the concept is familiar regardless: By working together early and often, finance, HR, sales and marketing professionals can collaborate with IT folks instead of arguing with them. (Perish the thought!) This can foster better working relationships among everyone involved and, most important here, possibly solve the IT-business divide that has plagued so many traditional IT "projects."

Simon Says

Note here that IT should still play a key role as it relates to big data integration. Specifically, it should closely monitor external data sources from partners. Both in terms of data types and terms of service, third-party APIs are anything but static. Organizations that integrate big data with traditional data sources need to pay careful attention, and many LOB employees wouldn't know an API from Adam. "Set it and forget it" at your own peril.

Only through a true partnership can organizations, IT and different LOBs solve the new problems and realize the massive new opportunities that big data presents.


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About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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