In big data, industrialization is innovation

What every CIO should focus on in 2017


“We need to innovate” is a common refrain. And in the world of information, there is often a mistaken belief that innovation today is purely about analytics. However, the reality is that sort of fashionista-based innovation rarely delivers sustainable results. Back in 2010, MIT and Capgemini looked at what it really took for companies to be successful with digital. Their report had a very interesting finding: Companies that take a more governed and managed approach to digital deliver more sustained benefits on their journey. Those that pursue technology- and point-driven approaches deliver less value.


This shouldn’t really come as a surprise: History has shown us that some of the greatest innovations in business come from industrializing and standardizing what others had previously done. Henry Ford famously created the first large-scale production line to manufacture his cars, an innovation that enabled him to not only make cars faster, but to make them to a higher and more consistent quality. By enabling certain people to specialize in specific tasks, it meant they could gain higher skill levels and in turn innovate within their new area of expertise.

The key is that Ford industrialized something that hadn’t been industrialized, and today in big data we find ourselves at a similar place in the journey. We are moving from the building of bespoke smaller-scale solutions to replacing a whole data substrate across an organization. This shift from cottage industry to core capability is why companies need to industrialize to gain advantage over their competition. If we look at the key life cycle stages of ingest, store and distill, all of these are ripe for Industrialization.


Today ask yourself this: “How long does it take for me to get data available for use?” If the answer is “How long is a piece of string?” or an internal groan, then time is clearly being wasted in areas that do not directly add business value.This is where you need to think like Henry Ford and consider what your production line for information should be. The "drivers" in this scenario are the people writing reports, the data scientists doing analytics, the developers building new data-centric applications and the integrators delivering information back into operational systems.  Those drivers however don’t need choice on how the information gets to them, to borrow the quote attributed to Henry Ford, “They can have it any color they want, as long as it’s black”.

The point here is that having a digital information platform is a huge innovation over the siloes and low-velocity information projects of today. Too often, CIOs become fixated on point efforts and the power of analytics instead of considering what it truly requires to become a digital business. When looking at investments and return, it’s important to remember that the ability to more rapidly deliver value is at the beating heart of a digital business that can adapt to the market.

Industrialization is the main big data innovation that every CIO should focus on in 2017, because without industrialization, 2018 and beyond will remain cottage industries. To provide the foundations for business innovation, you must provide a new information landscape that enables you to rapidly deliver a multitude of different analytics at high velocity, high reliability and at a predictable business cost. Industrialization is the only way to go.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in