Big data: how to get the board on board

By Derek du Preez
16 Nov 2011 View Comments
Man works on huge computer display

Most board-level executives are still unconvinced about the benefits of big data, despite growing hype around the concept. So what should IT leaders who see the need to harness big data do to get the issue onto the boardroom radar?  IT leaders and departments need to make the business benefits clear to the board and turn big data into a C-level agenda. 

Further reading

This was one of the issues addressed by industry players at a recent Oracle-sponsored Computing roundtable.

Advances in parallel programming and distributed file systems, such as the rise of Apache Hadoop, have made it possible for enterprises to analyse petabytes of  structured and unstructured data. Tools to help businesses mine this “big data” are available from several vendors, including IBM, Oracle, EMC, Aster Data and Teradata.

However, CEOs and CFOs still do not understand how big data can be manipulated to boost the bottom line.

“Is the opportunity that big data presents on the agenda of decision makers within our corporations? Is it a CEO agenda item?” asked Julian Morgan, partner at management consultancy firm Kurt Salmon.

“CIOs understand the benefits, but when I speak to CEOs and CFOs about using information as an asset, they just don’t get it,” he added.

Morgan went on to argue that there is a “huge opportunity” for IT leaders to make big data an agenda item for the business.

But how can IT do this?

Greg Smith, CIO at distribution company Yodel, believes that generating interest at a senior level will only be possible once enterprises recognise that information and data can be treated as a financial asset.

“All businesses now have two balance sheets and two profit and losses. They have a financial one and an information one. The trouble is that the information balance sheet and information profit and loss aren’t shared and aren’t explicitly recorded,” said Smith.

“The minute we start seeing that a company’s value is as much about the information they hold as their bank balance, then we will see data treated as a true asset,” he added.

David Rajan, director of technology for Oracle, agreed, adding that the vendor had conducted research that found that 77 per cent of CIOs thought data should appear on the balance sheet as a key metric to define the value of a business.

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