Demonstrate that any new technology idea has long enough legs, and somebody will start talking about a backlash.
That's one takeaway from a recent article by Eric Knorr in InfoWorld. Knorr spoke with Rod Smith, vice president of emerging technologies for IBM. Smith told Knorr that information technology departments are pushing back when it comes to big-data projects.
"It might be useful for a particular campaign you're going to do or the launch of a product, but then it might be disposable at that point," Smith said of big-data build-outs by IT." So that makes it really tough for the IT guys to say, yeah, we're going to spend with you here, because we know that we'll build it and you'll use, and it will have that value over and over again. They can't touch it or feel it the same way anymore."
That's an interesting — and perhaps important — example. Are IT departments resisting along these lines? Is departmental buy-in tied to repeat usability?
The Plug turned to several business experts who are working with big data. How are they dealing with the internal conversation about mission, IT, planning, and project realization?
Priorities and Pressures: Big Data and the 'Shadow IT'
"One of the biggest challenges organizations have today is determining what matters, prioritizing efforts and collaborating for more impact," said Tracy Harris, director of marketing at AlignAlytics, talking about big-data project proposals and IT department priorities.
"IT organizations are inundated with requests to capture and manipulate data," she said. "And they don't always have a way to prioritize what is most important by value."
If that leads IT staff to react too slowly, Harris said, requestors will then at times turn to outside consultants and technology expertise.
"However, this can create major expenses," said Harris. "With shadow IT organizations duplicating costs by purchasing data infrastructure, consulting services, and software in every department. And it gains only tactical value as that single department will gain a quick win but soon realize that . . . its data would be much more useful when combined with other linked data in the organization. We recommend collaboration and strategy from the executive level down."
Executive on Down: The CIO as a Force of Change
A key to the idea of collaboration from the executive level down is that the chief information officer at big-data savvy companies must reinvent the position.
"Data often lives in the no man's land between the CIO and the CFO," said Dr. Satya Ramaswamy, global head of Mobility and Next Generation Solutions at Tata Consultancy Services." In 2013, we will see the CIO start to take ownership of that data and use it as a way to drive the organization forward while securing his position as a change agent within the organization."
Additionally, outside assistance may actually come from within, through new training. But not right away. Formal training programs continue to emerge, but Ramaswamy suggests there may still be some lag time involved in getting established team members up to speed.
Opening the Dialogue Anew
So, if it's the CIO positioned to become the agent of change, and an IT department that may be best suited to manifest a transformation, how does one solve for the pushback about which Smith and Knorr spoke?
One answer is to ask better questions of IT and provide them with fully developed ideas.
"I would argue that if there is resistance, it’s likely because the business hasn't come to the table with a sound idea of how something will work," said Mike Matchett, senior analyst at the Taneja Group. "Vaguely suggesting that there [should] be a big-data project with some Twitter data isn't going to get you on the project short list. Make the project serious. If I were a business owner, I'd get a business analyst/data scientist front and center to own and drive the project—put some money behind it, make the value clear."
Bottom line: make the investment of time and human capital in the proposal an investment that every component of your business can own.