BI and big data analytics Force an Overdue Reckoning Between IT and Business Interests
BI and Big Data Analytics Force an Overdue Reckoning
Between IT and Business Interests
Transcript of a Brieﬁngs Direct podcast on the need to solidly align business and IT goals and
bring further collaboration on innovation within the enterprise.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Dell Software
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re
listening to BrieﬁngsDirect.
Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how big data and business intelligence (BI)
trends are hastening a breach between enterprise IT groups and business units.
We'll examine how a traditional ebb and ﬂow between IT centralization and
decentralization are now swinging in the direction of business groups and even
shadow IT. This runs the risk of neglecting essential management security and
Our discussion now will focus on how big data and analytics should actually force
more collaboration and lifecycle-based relationships among and between business and IT groups.
For those organizations, where innovation is being divorced from IT discipline, we'll explore
ways that a comprehensive and virtuous adoption of rigorous and protected data insights can
both make the business stronger and make IT more valued.
Here now to share his insights such as gaining sustainable, competitive advantage, using big data
strategically, among all aspects of an enterprise, we’re joined by John Whittaker, Senior Director
of Marketing for Dell Software's Information Management Solutions Group. Welcome, John.
John Whittaker: Thank you very much, Dana. I’m looking forward to having this conversation
and sharing a little bit with your audience about how we at Dell Software look at this particular
problem. I’ll offer some suggestions about how we might be able to implement big data and gain
lasting sustainable advantage with the solutions that exist today, but doing so in a manner that’s
going to deliver long-term success.
Gardner: John, we seem to go back and forth between resources in organizations being tightly
controlled and governed by IT and then resources and control resting largely with the line of
business or even, as I mentioned, a shadow IT group of some sort. So over the past 20 or more
years, why has this problem been so difﬁcult to overcome? Why is it persistent? Why do we keep
going back and forth?
Whittaker: That’s an interesting question, and I agree. I've been in IT for longer than 20 years
and certainly in your study of history you can see that this ebb and ﬂow of centralized
management to gain some constraints or some controls in governance and security has been one
of the primary motivators of IT. It’s one of the big beneﬁts they provide, but in the backdrop, you
have lines of business that want to innovate and want to go in new directions.
Behind all of these things occurring, you have these megatrends that show up, these new
technology innovations and these new approaches. There periodically seems to
be times when the innovation cycle is really an arc.
We’re entering one of those times right now with big data and the advent of
analytics, and it’s driving lines of business to push into these new technologies,
and maybe in ways that IT isn’t ready for just yet.
This, as you mentioned, has been going on for some time. The last iteration
where this occurred was back in the ’90s when e-commerce and the Web captured the
imagination of business. We saw a lot of similarities to what's occurring today.
It ultimately caused some problems back in the ’90s around e-commerce and leveraging this
great new innovation of the Internet, but doing it in a way that was more decentralized. It was a
little bit more of the Wild West-based approach and ultimately led to some pretty signiﬁcant
issues that I think we are going to see out of the big data and analytics push that’s occurring right
Gardner: I suppose to be fair to each constituency here, it’s the job of IT to be cautious and to
try to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. There were a lot of people in 1996-97 who
didn’t necessarily think the Internet was going to be that big of a thing, and it
seemed to have lots of risk associated with it. So, I suppose due diligence
needed to be brought to bear.
On the other hand if the businesses didn’t recognize that this could be a huge
opportunity and we needed to take those risks, create a website, and enter into a
direct dialogue with customers to a new channel, they would have missed the big opportunity. So
these are sort of natural roles, but they can’t be too brittle.
Whittaker: You’re absolutely right. At their core, both groups had, and have, good motivations.
IT lives in a world of constraints, of governance, security, and of needing to deliver something
that’s going to be stable, that’s going to scale, that’s going to be secure, and that’s not going
Those are laudable goals to have in mind. From the line-of-business perspective, the business
wants to innovate and doesn’t want to be outmoded by its competitors. They rightfully see that
all these great innovations are coming, and analysts, pundits, and experts are talking about how
this is going to make a huge difference for businesses.
So they inevitably want to embrace those, and you have this cognitive dissonance occurring
between the IT goals around constraints and the desire to keep things running in a clean and
efﬁcient manner. IT is seeing this new technology and saying, “Hold on. We don’t necessarily
want to jump into this. This is going to break our model.”
Ultimately, IT gets to a point where maybe they suggest we shouldn’t do it or we should push it
off for some time. That’s where the chasm between the two gets started. From the business
perspective, the answer “no” is unacceptable, if they feel that’s what they need to do to achieve
success in business. They own the P&L. That’s where these problems come from.
Nobody in either group is trying to harm the business or anything close to it. They just have
different motivations and perspectives on how to approach something, and when one gets wildly
far apart from the other, that’s where these problems tend to occur. Again, when these big
innovation cycles happen, you’re more likely to see a lot of these problems start to occur.
I deﬁnitely remember back in ’96-’97. We didn’t call it shadow IT at the time, but you saw ITlike personnel being hired into functional business areas to institute these new technologies, and
that ultimately led to a pretty serious hangover at the end of that innovation cycle.
Gardner: What’s the risk of ignoring IT, doing an end run around them, or downplaying the
role? What form does it take?
On their own
Whittaker: Ignoring IT can have some pretty serious problems. It all starts with the fact that,
and by and large, businesses can embrace these new technologies without the aid of IT. Cloudbased implementations have made it possible for lines of business to rapidly deploy some of
these new big data technologies, and you have vendors in some cases telling them they don’t
need IT’s help. So it’s not all that difﬁcult for lines of business to go out on their own and
implement a big data technology.
But they don’t typically have the discipline to apply across-the-board governance capabilities
and discipline into their deployment and that leads to potential issues with regulatory
requirements. It also leads to security issues, and ultimately can lead to problems where you have
seriously bad data management issues.
You have data sunk in silos, and maybe the CEO wants to know how much business we’re doing
with x, y, and z. No one can deliver that, because we call x, y, and z, something in one system, a
different name in another system, and a different name in the third system. Trying to pull that
data together becomes really difﬁcult. When you have lines of business independently operating
disparate solutions, those core governance issues tend to break down.
Additionally, although they are great at spotting innovation opportunities, line of business people
are not necessarily in the business of building scalable, secure, stable environments. That’s not
the core of, say, marketing. They need to understand how the technology can be leveraged, but
maintaining and managing it is not core to their charter. It tends to be ignored.
We saw in the early 2000s as the last innovation’s hangover started to occur. We saw people
discovering that their systems were not scalable, that they weren’t secure, and that they were
unstable because they didn’t have somebody there doing the basic care and feeding that is core to
IT. That can lead to some very substantial cost. The cost could be enormous and totally unbound
if you start talking about security issues that come from a lack of discipline applied at a
Gardner: John, it strikes me that there are some examples within IT that help understand this
potential problem and even grab some remediation, and that’s in software development. We’ve
seen the complexity in groups working without a lot of coordination and shared process insights
and have run aground.
For many years, we saw a very high failure rate among software development projects, but more
recently, we’ve seen improvements -- agile, scrum, opening up the process, small iterative steps
that then revert back to an opportunity to take stock and know what everyone is doing, checking
in, checking out with centralization but without stiﬂing innovation. Is there really a lesson here in
what’s happened within software development that could be brought to the whole organization?
Whittaker: Absolutely. In fact, within Dell Software itself we embrace agile and use scrum
internally. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the concept of working closely
together, iterating rapidly, and being open to innovation and the idea that changes occur.
Particularly in these major innovation cycles, it’s important to go with the ﬂow and implement
some of these new technologies and new capabilities early, so you can have that brain trust built
internally among the broad team. You don’t want IT to hold the reins entirely, and at the same
time, you don’t want line of business do it.
We really need to break that model, that back and forth, centralization-decentralization swing
that keeps occurring. We need to get to a point where we really are partnering and have good
collaboration, where innovation can be embraced and adopted, and the business can meet its
goals. But it has to be done in a way that IT can implement sound governance and implement
solutions that can scale, are stable, are reliable, and are going to lead to long-term success.
We’ve got to get out of these back-and-forth cycles that occur or we’re going to continue to
have these problems. As innovations occur more rapidly, you’re going to have more and more
problems like these occurring if you don’t ﬁnd a way to get IT and line-of-business motivations
and interests allied.
Gardner: What’s different this time, John? Are the stakes higher because we’re talking about
data analysis? That’s basically intelligence about what’s going on within your markets, your
organization, your processes, your supply chain, your ecosystem, all of which would have a
We have the ability now to tackle massive amounts of data very rapidly, but if we don’t bring this
together holistically, it seems as if there is a larger risk. I’m thinking about a competitive risk.
Others that do this well could enter your market and really disrupt.
Whittaker: You’re absolutely right. There’s great potential beneﬁt that organizations receive or
can get out of leveraging big data and analytics, that of being able to determine predictively what
is going to occur in their business and what are the most efﬁcient routes to market and what areas
of improvements can occur.
The businesses that leverage this are going to outmode, outperform, and ultimately win in the
markets currently dominated by organizations who aren’t paying attention and who aren’t
implementing solutions today. They’re getting a little bit ahead of this cycle so that they are
ready and are able to be successful down the road.
We’re really moving into an era where the context of what’s happening is critically important. A
data-driven management model is going to be embraced and it’s ultimately going to lead to more
successful organizations. Companies and organizations that embrace this today are going to be
the winners tomorrow.
If you’re ignoring this or putting this off, you’re really taking a tremendous risk, because this
next iteration of innovation that’s occurring around analytics applies to large data sources. It’s
being able to build the correlations and determine that this is a more efﬁcient approach, or
conversely, that we have a problem with this outlier that’s going to give us issues down the road.
If you’re not doing that as an organization, you really are running a pretty tremendous risk that
somebody else is going to walk in and be able to make smarter decisions, faster.
Gardner: At the same time, your customers are gaining insights into how to procure all the
better and so any rewards that might be out there, if you are in a sales role of any kind, would
become much more apparent.
Whittaker: That’s deﬁnitely true as well. The construct and the conversation has really shifted.
With the advent of social media and the pace at which information is shared and opinions are
made, it’s no longer the company that is the primary voice about its products and its capabilities
or its positions and point of views.
Customers more empowered
It needs to have those. It needs to get them out. It needs to push them. But in this new world we
live in, the customers are so much more empowered than they have ever been before, and it
should be a good thing. For companies that are delivering great products and solving real
problems for their customers, this should be great news.
If you’re not listening to what your customers are saying in social media and if you’re not paying
attention to the ongoing story line and conversation of your ﬁrm in the social sphere, you’re
really putting yourself at risk. You’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to engage with
your customers in a new, interesting, and very useful way.
That’s a lot of what we built. We have a lot of capabilities here at Dell Software around data
management, data integration, and data analysis. On the analysis side, we spend a great deal of
time with products like Kitenga and our social networking analytics platforms to do that
semantic analysis and look into that form of big data.
But big data is more than just social. It’s also sensor data. The iterative thing is another area
where businesses should be innovating and organizations should be pushing to take advantage of
it. That’s where line of business should be saying, “We need to get out into this area, or if we
don’t, we’re going to be outmoded by our competitors.” And IT should be encouraging it. They
should be pushing for more innovation, bringing new ideas, and being a real partner and
collaborator at the table within the business and organization. That’s the right way to do this.
Gardner: Otherwise, we run the risk of peeling back an onion only to ﬁnd other layers
unconnected to one another. We don’t get that one view of the customer, that one view of the
patient, or that one view of an extended business process. We just create more silos of data.
Centralized IT organizations perhaps are better than almost anyone in understanding how to
connect those, rather than keep them spinning off on their own.
Whittaker: Absolutely. And IT itself should be applying some of these technologies. In fairness
to line of business, there exists a bit of a crisis of conﬁdence in IT, and there’s really no better
way to push against that or ﬁght against that then to be able to run analytics on the solutions
you’re providing. How well is IT performing? Are you benchmarking against past performance?
How do you benchmark against your industry?
That’s another component. Big-data analytics can be utilized by IT not just to deliver capabilities
to the organization or push out and help with connecting to the customer. IT could use big data
analytics to improve its own environment and to answer this crisis of conﬁdence that exists.
You could turn these tools internally and look at rates of response as compared to your industry,
how your network is performing, how your database is performing, or how the code you write is
performing. Are your developers efﬁcient in building clean code?
Everybody has been watching the major shift in the healthcare environment in North America. A
big component of that probably should have been more benchmark analysis, analytics on code
quality, and things of that nature. That’s a great current and topical example of how IT should be
utilizing some of these technologies, not just externally, not just bringing it to line of business,
but within its own environment, to prove that it’s building systems that are going to be scalable,
secure, and stable.
Gardner: What needs to take place in order for this higher level of coordination and
collaboration to take place? Are there any key steps that you have in mind for embarking on this?
Four key areas
Whittaker: I think that there are four key areas that need to occur for this collaboration to
happen. Number one, senior executives need to be aligned to what the organization is trying to
achieve. They need to articulate a common vision that accounts for the shared interest of both IT
and line of business and make it clear that they expect collaboration. That should come at the top
of the organization.
We need to get out of the smoke-stacked, completely siloed, organizational approaches and get to
something that’s far, far more collaborative, and that needs to come from the top. The current
approach is not acceptable. These groups need to work together. That’s a key component. If you
don’t have buy-in at the top, it makes it really hard for this collaboration to occur.
Number two, IT needs to get its house in order. This means many things, but primarily, it means
overcoming the crisis of conﬁdence line of business has in IT by coming to the table with an
approach that works for line of business, something that business aligns with such that it feels
like it has IT involvement and that they’re buying into the future that the business wants to head
towards. IT needs to show that they have a plan that does not compromise the innovations that
the business needs.
IT absolutely can no longer just say no. That’s not an acceptable position. Certainly, if you look
back, there were IT organizations that were saying, “No, we’re not going to connect to the
Internet. It’s not secure. The answer is just going to be no.”
That didn’t work out for them and it’s not going to work out here either. They should be
embracing this shift. We shouldn’t perpetuate this cycle by driving more shadow IT and creating
ultimately more for IT down the road as inevitable problems start to emerge.
Number three, clear the air and put the executive plan in place. Tensions between IT and line of
business have gotten to the point where they can’t be ignored any more. Put the stakeholders
together in a room, air out the difﬁculties, and move forward with a clean slate. This is a
tremendous opportunity to build a plan that meets both parties’ needs and allows them to start
executing on something that’s really going to make a huge impact for the business.
Finally, the fourth point, seek solutions that emphasize collaboration between IT and the
business. Many vendors today are encouraging groups to go rogue and operate in silos, and that’s
causing a lot of the problem. At Dell, we’re much more about pushing a more collaborative
approach. We think IT is terriﬁc, but business has a point. They need innovation and they need
IT to step up. And the business needs to embrace IT.
Instead of conﬂicting with each other and doing your own thing, back up your commitment to
collaboration and utilize tools that empower it. That’s where we’re going to win, and that’s how
business is going to succeed in the future.
Gardner: Just to be clear John, it sounds as if these aren’t just issues for large enterprises. Midsize and mid-market organizations, I should think, are in the same issue set or the same ballgame.
Whittaker: You’re absolutely right. If you have an IT department and you have functional
business units, you probably have this problem. Certainly, you can beneﬁt from more
collaboration, from implementing and instituting an approach to leverage big data and analytics
in order to make smarter business decisions is something that everybody is going to need today.
This isn’t something that the G20, the Fortune 500, or Fortune 2000 alone can beneﬁt from. This
goes way down in the hierarchy, in the stack, certainly down to the small- and medium-sized
business (SMB) level. And maybe even lower. If you’re a data-intensive small business, you
probably need to start implementing and taking a look at big data and what analytics based
approaches and data-driven decision making opportunities exist within your organization, or you
will be outmoded by organizations that do embrace that.
More and more, we’re seeing, particularly in the mid-market, embracing of a cloud-based
approach. It's important to point out that that approach is ﬁne and terriﬁc. We love the cloud and
we’re big proponents of it, but using a cloud-based solution doesn’t free line of business from the
need to collaborate with IT. It will not eliminate this problem.
Yes, you may get a little bit more of stable solution in the cloud, as opposed to managing it
yourself, because it's still not core to the functional group. Ultimately, IT is the group that really
knows how and where they can apply appropriate constraints, really control those relationships a
little better, and ensure that they have solutions in place that allow for you to analyze all the data
in the environment.
You need analysis of all the data that exists right now in your cloud implementation, data that
exists in all the systems throughout, so you can see all the components and ﬁnd out where the
correlations lie. And if you have siloed data, if you have gone your own way, you’re going to be
missing that component.
Gardner: I imagine too that you can’t outsource your alignment of your business strategy with
your technology capabilities. In fact, for IT, being able to have more choice with these models
for workloads and deployments, frees them up to take more of a role in this alignment.
I would think that the role of enterprise architects starts to blend into IT, because they’re no
longer looking at the red light-green light issues, keeping the hardware operating. Now, they can
really take more of a role and step up to a higher plane on these alignment issues.
Whittaker: Absolutely. We’re seeing terriﬁc IT departments and leadership starting to take a
larger role, starting to ultimately become drivers of innovation. That’s really what we want to
see. All businesses want the same thing. They want to ﬁnd sustainable competitive advantages.
They want to control spending. They want to reduce risk to the business.
And the most effective and efﬁcient path to achieving all three is getting IT and the business
aligned and allowing that collaboration to occur. That’s really at the crux of how businesses are
going to gain competitive advantage out of technology in the future.
Gardner: Well, John, I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We’re about out of time. You’ve
been listening to a sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect podcast discussion on how big data and business
intelligence trends are hastening a breach or perhaps an alignment between enterprise IT groups
and business units. And now is the time to be thinking about which of those directions you will
You have seen how a more cooperative and innovation fostering relationship, one that can
perhaps exploit big data beneﬁts for all is in order and that the stakes are quite high.
And we have learned more about how gaining sustainable competitive advantages using big data
strategically among all aspects of enterprises and small businesses should be something made a
priority and happen as soon as possible.
Any last words John on recommendations or what you think were some of the more important
points that we went over today?
Embrace new technology
Whittaker: Thank you, Dana, this was terriﬁc. And thank you, audience, for listening. I would
say, again, the big points are, embrace the new technology that’s coming out. The innovation is
going to make your business far more successful, and your organization will prosper from these
new innovations that will occur.
Number two, do it in a manner that is collaborative between IT and line of business. The CIO,
the CMO, the CFO, the CEO, the heads of all of the functional departments, whether you are in
sales, marketing, ﬁnance, operation, wherever you are, should be aligning with their IT
counterparts. It's the combined collaborative approach that’s going to win the day.
And ﬁnally, this should really be driven top-down. Senior executives, this is an opportunity to get
everybody on the same page to go after and leverage a pretty enormous opportunity before it
becomes a huge problem. Let’s get out there right now. We’re still in the early days, but that
doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to be gained. And ultimately, in the long-term, we’re going to have
more successful organizations able to achieve even greater output through this collaboration and
the leveraging of big data analytics.
Gardner: Very good. Thank you to our guest, John Whittaker, the Senior Director of Marketing
for Dell Software’s Information Management Solutions Group. It was really good talking with
you today, John.
Whittaker: Thanks a lot, Dana.
Gardner: And also, a big thank you to our audience for joining this insightful discussion. This is
Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Don’t forget to come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Dell Software
Transcript of a Brieﬁngs Direct podcast on the need to solidly align business and IT goals and
bring further collaboration on innovation within the enterprise. Copyright Interarbor Solutions,
LLC, 2005-2013. All rights reserved.
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