How CIOs Can Reclaim Their Value Through Data Analytics


Think back to the dot com boom of the 1990s and the CIO role was one of the most in-demand positions in the game. Back then, CIOs were focused on building out computing infrastructures, installing workstations and exploring the early web – and given bountiful budgets to help their businesses use new collaboration technology to be more competitive.

Flash forward twenty years and the CIO, once so valuable to forward-thinking enterprises, finds herself with less budget, less opportunity and less power to steer the business. There are two key factors responsible for this change: digital transformation and the emergence of a tech-savvy workforce and department managers with their own IT budgets.

With the success of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions such as, Workday and Hubspot, more and more processes traditionally overseen and managed by CIOs are now handled by outsourced technology systems. These systems enable greater business efficiencies, empowering departments – from sales to marketing to finance – to bypass CIOs and procure the IT solutions needed to move their objectives forward.

The fact that workforces are inherently more tech savvy than previous generations is also a major factor in the diminishment of the CIO role. As millennials enter the workforce and assume strategic positions, organizations are staffed with employees who grew up using the Internet and are already familiar with a wide variety of technology platforms. Many have even taken coding classes. These employees are more than capable of researching, purchasing and implementing solutions without help from IT. In fact, there are more than 1,400 SaaS applications currently available that can be procured sans IT involvement.

As a result, CIOs’ roles have become increasingly marginalized, with most responsible for overseeing maintenance-related tasks instead of spearheading innovation-focused initiatives. According to a report from Getronics,  “The Changing Role of the CFO,” 17 percent of corporate financial decision makers, who once leaned heavily on insights from CIOs, now say the position of the chief information officer will disappear from the business landscape by 2017.

How can CIOs catapult themselves back into power positions and drive innovation that creates business value? The answer lies in something every enterprise is swimming in: data.

A typical medium size business generates terabytes of data per day. CIOs have the opportunity to deliver tremendous value to their businesses by making sense of what the information means across every level and department of the organization. In time, making sense of big data will push CIOs into the role of Chief Data Officer, or CDO.

By spearheading technology systems and processes that analyze business data, CDOs can deliver meaningful insights related to security, sales opportunities and operational processes, to name just a few. Consider the analysis of communications data, for instance. Despite the advent of a number of competing collaboration technologies, email is still the dominant channel for business communication. By accessing and analyzing data stored within email, CDOs can monitor keywords and trending topics, be alerted to content that poses risks to compliance initiatives or security and track highly active senders and recipients.

Imagine a financial firm. The firm may find through communications data analytics that credit card information, social security numbers or other personally identifiable information (PII) is being shared over email – which presents major security and compliance issues. While executives obviously cannot go back in time to prevent that data from ever passing through its email system, with analytics they can catch it much faster and quickly take the proper steps (e.g., training employees to discuss credit card information only in person or by phone) to ensure the problem does not arise again, potentially saving themselves from very costly litigation in the process. 

Content intelligence can also be used to enhance productivity. For example, a CDO may identify through email analytics that several members of the sales team are using outdated messaging when engaging prospects. The CDO can raise this to the Head of Sales, who can then address the problem by meeting with the team and training them to use the most current business messaging. Analytics can identify the problem and allow the company to fix it before it becomes a major issue, putting the sales team in a better position to effectively engage prospects and meet its goals.

By unlocking key insights into every department’s processes, the CDO has a huge opportunity to reassert their business value. The CDO will become the company’s secret weapon, imparting knowledge to unit heads so they can make more informed decisions that will steer the business forward and experience success like never before. Before long, the CDO will be one of the most in-demand positions in the game.