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FCW : April 15, 2013
Commentary | KRIS VAN RIPER AND CHRISTOPHER CATTIE KRIS VAN RIPER is a managing director and CHRISTOPHER CATTIE is an analyst at CEB. IT leaders across the public sector are being challenged to deliver con- tinuous improvements in the face of unprecedented budget scrutiny. Beyond simply focusing on short- term cost-cutting initiatives, IT lead- ers need to ask a more fundamental question: How can they continue to add the most value to the enterprise? Traditionally, IT has added value by focusing on the T side of the equation --- through technology development such as building new tools to automate processes. Those tools are essential as employees make increasingly complex, data- driven decisions. However, simply creating tools does not enhance pro- ductivity, especially if end users lack the information and analysis needed to generate value from them. One of the most interesting answers to the question of how to add value is coming from depart- ments that have begun focusing on the I side of the equation and supporting information-enabled productivity. IT-supported solutions have aided in the capture of a high vol- ume of information, but end users often struggle to tell "signal" from "noise" and thus fail to maximize the value of data. In fact, CEB research shows that despite greater access to information and increased investments in analytical tools, nearly two-thirds of employees are unable to harness this mountain of information for effective decision- making. So how can IT leaders ensure that they are not just pro- viding access to big data but also enabling better decisions? A CIO recently told us, "IT used to focus on delivering a standard set of high-quality data, but now we have to provide access to new informa- tion sources and help employees experience and look at data in unex- pected ways." That s what big data is all about --- our ability to exploit large and diverse information sets. Typically, training provided by the IT staff supports a new business intelligence tool. In a few cases, the training might also focus on spe- ci c data sources, but it is rare for employees to be trained on how best to use information to make better decisions. This is a mistake. Com- pared to teaching someone about a tool or data source, our surveys have shown that teaching employees how to conduct analysis has twice the impact on their ability to use infor- mation effectively. Therefore, a crucial emerging role for IT is to coach employees at all levels to develop critical infor- mation management competen- cies. Such an opportunity has high value, particularly given the unique strengths the IT department has in its broad reach across the agency and deep understanding of informa- tion sources, quality and analysis. The most productive ways to real- ize the potential of using big data to enable better decisions are to: • Train IT staff to exploit big data. Data scientists are just one part of the solution. IT teams need to build supporting roles that improve the usability of their information assets, such as infor- mation architects, user experience designers and information security liaisons. • Hire IT analysts who have coaching skills. Organizations rate quantitative skills as sig- ni cantly more important than coaching skills when hiring analysts. However, those with coaching skills are likely to make a much larger contribution to employee productivity than those without them. • Train end users to exploit big data. IT leaders should shift their focus from training users on new tools to ongoing support for analy- sis. Some of the most progressive organizations educate employees about new dashboards, tools and query techniques via channels that include video and classroom train- ing, and ongoing analyst support. ■ From big data to better decisions Progressive IT departments are moving beyond big data's hype by focusing on its promise of enabling better decision-making Simply creating tools does not enhance productivity, especially if end users lack the information and analysis needed to generate value from them. | 16 April 15, 2013 FCW.COM
March 30, 2013
April 30, 2013