Big data for the skeptical CIO

Is big data all it’s cracked up to be?

The CIO I was chatting with didn’t express his skepticism quite so candidly but he was clearly perturbed by the hype about big data. He’d just implemented a multi-million-dollar ERP system and couldn’t help wondering what – if anything – he should be doing with all that data.

The big data hype left him cold. All he wanted were straight answers to some rather old-fashioned questions: “Where’s the real added value? How can I make money from this?”

According to a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) webinar, my friend the CIO isn’t alone: Big data is provoking considerable C-level anxiety. Looking at the seemingly contradictory big data headlines, I’m not surprised.  Big data is the solution. Big data is the problem. Big data is a solution looking for a problem. Big data is heading for the trough of disillusionment. Big data is already producing significant results.

Even more alarming for CIOs who have just weathered a large ERP implementation is the idea that an appropriate response to the big data challenge is an ERP upgrade. In a 2011 big data survey by KPMG, 41% of respondents said their organizations were planning such an upgrade.  Somewhat paradoxically, 62% also said their organizations were working on improving decision making – not something ERP systems are very good at.

That point was underlined during the HBR webinar I mentioned earlier. In the words of one of the presenters: “A lot of organizations have invested in large ERP systems. A lot of these investments have been successful in terms of technology deployment. What we find is that many executives have been disappointed with the outcome – particularly with a lot of the business cases that were predicated on the impact it would have on decision making.”

So here’s the thing. There is a technology that embraces the bigness of big data and sets out a clear path to tangible, money-in-the-bank business value. I’m talking about intelligent planning systems that stand at the center of multiple sources of data and transform all those inputs into planning decisions that enable businesses to achieve their goals.

With such a planning system, more is indeed more. Instead of being overwhelmed by streams of data – e.g. from ERP systems, manufacturing execution systems, onboard computers and transportation management systems – an intelligent planning system rapidly and effortlessly applies all that input to enable a business to respond faster to changing circumstances and update plans on the fly.

Instead of post-mortem analytics (that enable you to explore the results of decisions when it’s too late to make a difference), an intelligent planning system provides real-time, forward-looking KPIs that enable enterprises to correct course swiftly.

Did I convert that skeptical CIO to the joys of big data? All I can say is that his eyes lit up at the realization that data from his ERP investment could be used create profitable operational improvements and new business opportunities.

To learn more about transforming big data into big improvements in your KPIs, download your free briefing, “Top 4 signs that your business is ready to plan for profit”.

 

Arjen Heeres

About Arjen Heeres

There are few things in life that give me more satisfaction than uncovering hidden optimization potential. My interest in this intersection between business and technology began at university where I researched the application of intelligent technologies to business problems, and earned a master’s in management science from the University of Groningen. I’ve been the COO of Quintiq since 2000, and have helped countless businesses in all kinds of industries realize their optimization potential. What a privilege!