Bridge the Gap: Why Analytics needs Agile Thinkers – by Kyle Swanson

Jeremy Stierwalt

By Kyle Swanson
Solution Director, SAP Analytics
Optimal Solutions an NTT Data Company

Over the next three years Executives and Thought Leaders have indicated that investments in Analytic Applications will take precedent over traditional infrastructure tools.  Organizations are preparing to take a more targeted approach to Big Data & Analytics with Phase 1 projects that will serve as benchmarks for future opportunities. 

One of the biggest challenges in turning these projects into valuable additions to an organizations portfolio is the actual execution of development.  While Analytic development is focused primarily on delivering powerful metrics to the business, the path required to design, mine and deliver these solutions will likely require a deep technical understanding of the tools and source systems.  A recent Accenture survey indicates that CMOs and CIOs are increasingly at odds over best practices for using specific business applications.  Despite their opposing views they (and other C Level Executives) have been relying on each other to the drive valuable reporting and data discovery activities.

Unfortunately far too many cycles are being spent developing and re-developing these metrics.  This is primarily due to the large gap between understanding both technical and business requirements of an organization.  Additionally, Executives need actionable data that can be accessed easily and relied upon for critical decision making opportunities.  Failure to close this gap (especially in Phase 1) results in the development efforts being discarded and more importantly, leaves a negative impression on the benefit Analytic Solutions can provide.

When it comes to Executives squaring off to “win” the internal technology battle, we are faced with an age old question: what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?  Unless decision makers can find ways to co-exist when it comes to running their Line of Business, investments in analytics and technology will push organizations further apart instead of unifying them.

However, there is a growing trend among a small subset of organizations that are looking to bridge this gap.  This trend is known as the Chief Digital Officer.  CIO’s are traditionally tasked with strategic investments in data storage applications and working with data movement, while the CMO is required to focus on advertising and branding.  The CDO augments both the CIO and the CMO in that they focus primarily on how data is being used after it’s moved and how to present a complete view of information around purchasing, delivery and service.

Still not convinced that this seemingly organic role is on the minds of prominent business leaders?  Gartner predicts that by 2015, 25% of businesses will hire a CDO.  David Willis, Vice President at Gartner stated in 2012 that “the Chief Digital Officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead, and IT leaders have the opportunity to be the leaders who define it. “  Lastly, there is evidence that the CDO role is a faster path to the CEO chair with 7 instances noted in the last 18 months.  This is a pretty exciting statistic for a position that was virtually non-existent a few years ago.

The CDO is inherently iterative, requiring them to be more of a free form thinker and having the ability to adapt quickly to their environment.  Successful CDOs need to be fluent in multiple business languages while simplifying the most complex technologies for their colleagues.

This visionary role opens opportunities for strategic use cases of Advanced Analytics and Big Data Solutions.  CDOs will understand the value these applications bring to both sides of the table and will assist in earning quick wins for their clients (CIO & CMO specifically).  Although not all endeavors will prove to be successful, it is imperative that CDOs focus on Phase 1 activities to show specific value and to benchmark results for future projects.

At the end of the day, agile technology requires agile thinkers to help recognize its true potential.  It remains to be seen whether the success of failure of advanced applications rests solely on the Chief Digital Officer.  However until current owners of business and technology learn to bridge their knowledge gap effectively, introducing a fresh perspective will be the driving force for innovation.


“” ChiefExecutivenet Chief Executive Magazine Are You Ready to Take Advantage of Analytics Comments. N.p., 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
“Newsroom.” Gartner Says Every Budget Is Becoming an IT Budget. Gartner, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
“Accenture” The CMO-CIO Disconnect: Bridging the Gap to Seize the Digital Opportunity to Improve Customer Experience. Accenture, 5 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.

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