Breaking down the great walls of data


concrete wall with geometric windowsDespite many experts touting 2016 as a significant year for innovation, IT is still chaotic, with many teams stuck in an old world. Organisations are implementing countless digital and data projects in an attempt to improve business models and streamline processes.

Sadly, these rarely reflect any kind of coherent company-wide IT strategy and often just add disorder to an already disrupted environment. IT simply keeping the lights on is no longer enough.

IT everywhere

These challenges resonated with many of the attendees at the recent SAS Live event in London, where Jill Dyché presented a keynote on “The New Executive’s Analytics Experience.”

She talked about how it’s currently a toss-up as to which business department has control of data – for different organisations, this could be marketing, finance or even IT. Many organisations think they're doing the right thing by deploying data analytics within the company, but the resulting confusion from a bad implementation is often more detrimental than the project is beneficial.

Siloed departments are one of the biggest barriers to making the most of big data. Depending on where you sit in your organization, analytics may look very different. The question of who “owns” the data function is at the forefront of many corporate agendas, but the answer is still vague.

Jill explained that first organizations need to look inward to build a digital infrastructure across the business, defining a clear strategy that everyone can follow. For today’s organisations to truly benefit from innovation, they need to answer questions like: ‘What are the strategic opportunities for technology?’ and ‘How can IT either help, or get out of the way?’

If businesses want to garner real value from their data, traditionally warring departments need to come together and "break down the great walls of data." They need to build data processes around user groups, rather than around data type, which is the traditional method of compartmentalising data.

This is what she calls “IT everywhere” – where technology solutions are developed and owned by the business areas that use them, with infrastructure largely outsourced to the cloud. A thin layer of programme management oversees the procurement, contract, vendor and management processes. The detail is set out in her book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age.

Innovating from the top

Jill explained that a lot of people she speaks to are intrigued by the idea of IT everywhere. Unfortunately, she’s found that the managers who find the concept the most compelling are often those who are the least ready to take it on.

Embracing IT everywhere implies a certain level of self-awareness, and the only way she says it can work is if it starts at the top. However, the job descriptions of C-level executives are also becoming increasingly vague. Many new job functions such as Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer and Chief Innovation Officer have data responsibilities that are ever changing, further complicating the data implementation within the organisation itself.

One positive trend Jill is seeing is that many conversations that took place this year will likely be operationalised in 2016. Executives at the highest levels are under immense pressure to start thinking differently about their businesses. They need to be ready to react to disruptive competitors. They want to be innovative and build an analytics culture into network infrastructures, but just aren’t sure where to start.

High-level executives are engaging SAS Best Practices to help them launch innovation in the right way, implement analytics and learn what it takes to start an innovation lab within their organisations. On a good day, executives succeed in creating a culture of innovation -- and that creates a positive ripple effect across the organisation.

And that gives Jill hope that we'll be able to move forward from this age of IT chaos and truly prepare for the arrival of IT everywhere.


About Author

David Smith

Sr Communications Specialist

David C. Smith is Influencer Relations Manager for SAS UK and Ireland. He’s based in Marlow, just west of London. Follow him on Twitter at @davidsmith4324.


  1. I’m with you David. As I see it there are three ways (IT) organizations can create a company innovation culture. Firstly, embracing digital, then establishing an innovation lab (datalab) and finally rewarding discovery.

    To transform your business and go digital is often the first step toward creating an innovation culture that fills the workplace, rather than resides solely in IT or other pockets in our business.
    Then creating a Datalab serves many purposes, but the overall byproduct is the strengthen collaboration between IT and the business, which is in the past may not have been the best of friends. It is a so valuable because business innovation is closely tied today to information technologies

    An innovation culture allows employees to think disruptive, to play and experiment. For instance, an IT organization crawling through historical data using a bigdata datalab, with no specific questions in mind, might turn up findings that were much unexpected based on correlations in the data

  2. Great recap, David! The one comment we heard after the keynote was: "My CIO [or other IT executive] needs to hear this message!" The best IT leaders are out there talking to advisers, consultants, vendors, and each other about what change takes, and then bravely proposing uncomfortable new behavior changes to their peers.

    The ones who succeed are the ones who tie digital improvements and organizational modernization (aka: "IT everywhere") to revenue growth, competitive advantage, and an enhanced customer experience.

Leave A Reply

Back to Top