Is the CMO the new CIO? This is a debate that has been raging ever since Gartner predicted last year that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. This is, of course, all driven by big data and the impact that ever expanding volumes of customer data are having on the marketing function.
Yet this argument is a little short-sighted. Big data absolutely has clear benefits for businesses in terms of digital marketing and how they engage their customers but there is much more on offer too. Businesses are missing out if they aren’t considering how real-time analysis of data could impact other areas of the business. For example, big data could improve product development, streamline supply chain and aid forecasting decisions.
Given the economic difficulties facing Europe at the moment, governments are looking to businesses as an engine for growth. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, “growth rests ultimately on innovating firms.” And big data can help them to innovate.
Research from SAS and the Centre for Economic and Business Research highlighted last year that innovation in the form of applying big data analytics to research and development is predicted to contribute £24.1 billion to the UK economy by 2017 by driving new products and services, as well as the potential creation of new markets. With this in mind, it’s pretty shocking that research we carried out with Gryphon Consulting revealed that only 36 of the Fortune 500 companies have a Chief Innovation Officer.
Turning information into innovation
There’s a clear need for someone to assume the role of the Chief Innovation Officer and there is a solid argument to be made that this should be the CIO. In today’s world, technology is often at the centre of innovation and yet all the key business decision makers (the CEO, COO and CFO) sit outside of the technology sphere. As the Chief Innovation Officer needs to understand both the business proposition and the technology required to deliver the solution in order to get the most from big data, the CIO is the obvious choice.
The only thing holding the CIO back is having to deal with urgent demands from the business. An average 37% of a European IT department’s time is taken up with ‘fire-fighting’ according to a recent survey. As a result, it’s no surprise that a third of respondents agreed that their department struggles to take a proactive and long-term strategic view. When asked why, the most common answer was that they always have to deal with short term reactive business requirements.
Creating the headroom to allow the CIO to assess the transformative power of big data for an organisation will be vital to enabling innovation. Those companies that do will win out and reap the benefits in terms of increased efficiency and new revenue streams.
Today, the big data discussion centres on the analytical software needed to extract value from it. To come out on top in the long run however, businesses need to be thinking ahead to the potential future requirements that will be needed to deliver the more innovative applications of big data.
For example, it will be crucial to ensure that you have the skills in place to interpret the data as well as to understand what the business proposition actually is. On top of this, organisations need to be planning today for the wider connectivity infrastructure that they might need tomorrow to bring together large, disparate data sets in real-time.
So do I think the CMO will have more control over IT than the CIO by 2017 as a result of big data? No. But there is certainly scope for the CIO to use big data to move into a more strategic role with a wider focus: no longer the Chief Information Officer, but the Chief Innovation Officer.